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LUINTER ai/BS,l55UE 3 


Talking Heads p. 2 

Letters p. 4 

Female Troubles: Wage Work & Housework p. 10 

Horrors of Pooperscooper U p. 24 

Under Control p. 28 

Carols For All Occasions p. 34 

Overt i me P . 36 

It Reached Out and Touched Me p. 37 


Jack & The Beanstalk p. 52 

Compared To What? p. 59 

The Office as Metaphor for Totalitarianism p.63 

All of the articles in Processed World reflect the views of the author 
and not necessarily the views of other contributors or editors. 




In the U.S. today;, the vast majority of 
office jobs are still held by women. Even as 
heavy industry with its traditionally male 
workforce continues to lay off hundreds of 
thousands, the proportion of women in the 
workforce at large goes on rising. Why has 
the Christian New Right chosen this moment 
to campaign against married women holding 

This issue's lead article, "Female Trou- 
bles: Wagework, Housework", looks behind 
the New Right's current offensive against 
women's rights at the complex relationship 
between "housework" and wagework, and 
at how changes in this relationship over the 
last century have transformed women's 
social role. Despite these transformations, 
women are being forced to bear the brunt of 
the continuing economic decline. "Female 
Troubles" discusses the possibilities for 
resistance — and for a society in which 
women and men would enjoy real freedom. 
Many have hailed the recent strike by San 
Jose city workers for women's wage parity 
as a real step towards equality. Certainly, it 
was a historic occasion - the first time in 
America that men have walked the picket 
line to support the goals of women co- 
workers. Yet the formula of "comparable 
worth" on which the San Jose strikers based 
their demands, has serious flaws. "Com- 
pared to What?" in this issue reviews the 
strike and concludes that the strategy of 
demanding "comparable work" leaves open 
the possibility of new, non-gender based 
divisions in the workforce for management to 

In fact, the division between skilled and 
less skilled has always plagued workers' 
organizing. The fate of the PATCO air-traffic 
controllers' strike which dominated the 


headlines through much of August and 
September, is only the most recent of the 
countless defeats such divisions have caused. 
"Under Control", an account of the PATCO 
walkout, shows how the union system helped 
Reagan and the Federal authorities to break 
the strike and analyzes the consequences for 
the aviation industry and for other American 

Is there a more effective alternative to 
unions? Our Letters column continues the 
debate about unionization with an exchange 
between the author of last issue's article on 
the Stanford clerical workers' unsuccessful 
unionization drive, and one of its organizers. 

In PW#'s 1 and 2 we solicited first-hand 
accounts of work life from our readers. In this 
issue we inaugurate such accounts as a 
regular feature, "Tales of Toil". The 
"Horrors of Pooperscooper U" is a bitterly 
hilarious description of a receptionist's 
experience in a pet hospital, while "It 
Reached Out and Touched Me" takes a 
sardonic look at clerical work for Pacific 
Telephone. Our series of off ice worker fiction 
and fantasy continues with "Jack and the 
Beanstalk," an updated version of an old 
fairy tale. 

For many of us who spend most of our 
daylight hours tapping away at keyboards, 
the office tends to become a sort of 
dreamworld. The Memorandum, a play by 
the Czech author Vaclav Havel, inverts this 

process by showing how life in a single cell of 
the bureaucracy is a perfect miniature of the 
whole of modern society. The Memorandum 
is reviewed in this issue. 

For most of a century, clerical workers 
have tended to consider themselves privi- 
leged, even superior, to blue collar workers. 
This deep-seated attitude has only recently 
been changing, with the increasing strain 
imposed by office automation and the 
growing awareness that the office, too, has 
its health hazards. "Oops! Notes on an 
Unnatural Disaster" and "Chills and Drills 
From Toxic Spills" in Downtime show how 
much the situation of office workers has 
come to resemble blue collar work. 

Modern industry has converted the U.S. 
into a single social factory where all of life 
increasingly resembles the automated as- 
sembly line. Whether their collars are white, 
pink or blue, their pay high or low, most 
workers in the social factory spend their time 
coordinating and modifying flows - of infor- 
mation, money, energy and goods. As these 
flows get faster, more complicated and more 
mechanized in the frantic rush for profit and 
power, the number of disastrous "spills" of 
all kinds is ever greater, and their effects 
more deadly. 

Most of us at P. W. still work in offices. But 
we are anxious to hear from people in other 
departments of the social factory . Keep those 
cards, letters, articles and graphix coming! 

Processed World, not want- * 
ing to get left out of the * 
current bonanza of military * 
procurement contracts, is < 
including in this issue sever- 
al suggestions for new wea- 
pons systems. We will ac- 
cept any amount of money 
for these ideas, and take 
traveller's checks, foreign 
currency, and major credit 
cards. Look for the star- 
boxes like the one around 
this announcement. 

******* ******************* 



Do you ever feel like saying something to the 
people at work, but don't know how to go 
about it? Well the folks at Processed World 
have an offer: we will help anyone who wants 
to create a leaflet for distribution (anony- 
mously or not) at their workplace. We have 
typesetting, camera/darkroom, and printing 
facilities available, as well as sympathetic 
helpers. If you are interested, drop us a line 
at: Processed World 

55 Sutter St. #829 

San Francisco, CA 94104 

Dear Processed World Readers: 

You may have read Caitlin Manning's 
review of the movie "Nine to Five" in the 
first issue of Processed World. You may not 
have. At any rate, one of the criticisms of the 
movie pointed to the inadequacy of dealing 
with such oppressive conditions with fantasy 
solutions, such as the three vignettes of 
Snow White (Lily Tomlin), the round-em-up 
cowgirl (Dolly Parton) and the safari hunt- 
ress (me — Jane Fonda). The sad reality for 
thousands of us is, though, that fantasies of 
revenge are about the only outlet for our 
frustration and resentment on the job For 
whatever reasons, "real" or "perceived," 
we feel we need these jobs. Sure, there's 
sabotage, often a limited option with minor 
results (not all of us key in the vital statistics 
for mega-corporations and world banks), and 
there's liberation of certain office supplies, 
photocopy subsidies, relief from high tele- 
phone bills... you get the idea. I'm sure. 

And there's fantasy. Fantasy provides, 
quite literally, an escape valve from office 
drear and ennui. The people of PW obviously 
recognize this value, and choose to print 
imaginary office adventures. I feel better for 
having one. Don't you? 

So my idea was that we could have a 
fantasy festival, a carnival of revenge — on 
the pages of Processed World, that is. Send 
in your favorite scenario of liberation, your 
visions of revenge, rebellion and resistance, 
actual and imagined. I'd love to see what 
other conspiring minds are cooking up 
behind all those typewriters and terminals. 
What d'ya say folks? 

Yours in the imagination, 

Pandora Pennyroyal 

67 Penny Lane 

Lavendar Leaf, QR 



Ed. Note -The point of the review was not to 
criticize fantasy per se, but to point out how 
the particular fantasies in this Hollywood 
movie were used in the context of the reality 
of office worker organizing. Of course, 
fantasy is not inherently a good thing either 
— imagine the perverse fantasies of Jerry 
Falwell or Phyllis Schlafly for instance. 
Anyway, we love the idea of a carnival of 
revenge and we'd be delighted to help 
publicize the fantasies of our readers.. . Send 

em m 1 . 


Processed World clarifies and enhances an 
already acute awareness of the nature of the 
work I have sold myself into for the next four 
months, and lets me identify with a group of 
people around the common experience of 
alienation. I like PW's sardonic tone, its 
prank and sabotage orientation, and appre- 
ciate the inclusion of positive alternatives at 
the close of almost every article. 

Oh yeah, one good outcome of this 
particular job interlude... my slumbering 
political activism has become wide awake; in 
the face of these 7 hours of non-productive 
time spent here, it is all the more imperative 
to spend the "free" time effectively. 

Yours truly, 
Ilios Aditya 

Dear PW people: 

Huddled secretively over my non-private 
desk, not in the mood to try to look busy, I 
put aside my copy of Processed World to 
reverse the communication flow. Hi! 

But my brain is fried and I can't 
concentrate. The beginning of my third week 
of legal secretary-ism (not my favorite ism, to 
say the least), marked, like all the weeks, 
with fresh cut flowers, also marked by my 
beginning to take drugs at lunch. Yesterday 
it was only a glass of wine, much less than 
the 3-martini crowd consumes; today it was 
(how do You spell relief?) m-a-r-i-j-u-a-n-a. 
Gidget forgot the cost of coping in her quick 
calculation of job-related expenses on her 
way to the interview. By the way, my small 
triumph is that I've only spent $1.50 on 
"acceptable" office clothes, and zip on 
pantyhose, and we have to dress up. 
Otherwise Gidget had the whole trip right 
on, down to the nausea you feel when you 
discover your work is directly or indirectly 
contributing to the military. In my case, my 
last temp job had a connection to nukes and 
the NRC. I took it, and with a few acts of 
sabotage against my favorite nukes, probab- 
ly had more effect than in six months of 
anti-nuclear activism. 

I've been wandering... what I was getting 
at is that between the lunch-time relief and 
the word-processor simulation my brain has 
been performing, as I said, my circuits are 

Surreptitiously slipping in and about the 
cubicles of the most likely of my co-workers, I 
have distributed the Processed Worlds I got 
from your literature table on Market Street 
last Thursday. I hope they start some wheels 

Wage Slavery Type I and Type II, sort of 
like Herpes simplex. Sure, they're both 
capitalist wage slavery, i.e., the product of 
your labor benefits only a privileged class. I 
planted flowers in the garden of a mansion, 
with over 100 rooms (over 13 bathrooms, 
they bragged), so other rich pigs could come 
get their new home drekorating ideas. 
Subject-verb-object-subordinate clause. . . 
forget the subordinate clause for a change... 
I planted flowers. That's Type I. Type II — I 
type contracts, to enable shopping center 
and condominium "developers" (the "Own- 
er" in legalese) to maintain control over 
"their land" while extracting rent from their 
tenants, to enable them to steal land they 
covet through "condemnation proceedings." 
OK, so in this case, it's basically the 
super-rich accumulating capital from the 
rich, but they got theirs from the not-so-rich, 
who got theirs from the poor, the wage 
slaves, the tenants. Oh, and my boss is 
getting his cut; you can be sure he always 
includes a clause providing for attorney's 
fees in case of any suit or "legal" action. 
And oh yeah, we (we secretaries) get cut 
flowers once a week, the office is just full of 
flowers, but they can't fool me, those lights 
are fluorescent and they're robbing me of 
vitamins, that's not the sun, that's not fresh 
air, that's not dirt on my hands, it's 
typewriter ribbon — wage slavery Type II, 
type 3, type 7 hours a day and your body 
rebels, says move, don't bind me up like this. 
Is that a faint, despairing voice inside my 
brain saying the same? 

When I garden, the exchange is between 
me and the employer. When I type, the 
government has its hands all over me, my 
paycheck, my address in its computer, state, 


federal, and of course the whole corporate 
bureaucratic apparatus as well. 

And the court has granted me a 4V2 month 
continuance — thank qoodness for the finite 
nature of this interlude. And how did I, a 
subversive, a rad, a red, get where I am 
today, asked the interviewer from Processed 
World. An agency sold me. I needed money 
for noble pursuits (is that a contradiction?), 
so I went to an agency and asked the sugary 
paper woman to sell me, just like Gidget. 
And I don't even know how much she 
got — $150 - 200 I would guess, for a couple 
of phone calls and me. How smoothly I 
fibbed to cover for my job record, maximum 
length of employment: 4 months; how 
smoothly she fed me the words she wanted to 
hear, reassuring her that now I was ready to 
settle down for a year or two. The personnel 
worker and my prospective boss asked me 
more about my "fiance" (part of the cover 
story) than they did about me, except, of 
course, was I going to quit work and have 
babies soon. 

Hired immediately, starting salary $1300, 
more than I've ever earned. I'm good, I know 
I'm good and that knowledge is going for me 
strong — only in the long run I've GOT to 
know that I'm good for more than this inane, 
insane secretarial stupor. What does it do to 
a person's self-esteem to do this all one's 
life? Ask my mother. She won't tell you, but 
talk to this clever, quick-thinking woman 
about doing something independent and she 
just doesn't believe it's possible. Subordi- 
nation to men all her life, husband and 
bosses. The next generation can provide the 


Dear PW: 


Enjoyed your magazine very much. One of 
your operators was kind enough to front me 
a copy as it was one day before payday 
(exchange-day) — someone gives it to me, 

and I turn around and give it to someone 

I am a temporary worker and was drawn to 
your article on temps. It pretty well outlined 
my experiences of being a secretary's slave, 
and more recently, a word processor. After 
attempting permanent employment in some 

lucrative field for several years, I decided on 
the temp circuit because it's... well, all so 
temporary anyway. 

Your left-wing stance is interesting, 
however, I feel you're not getting at the crux 
of the matter. There is a direct parallel to the 
rise of technology and the strength of the 
patriarchy. Until the alpha-males with their 
war-like aggressive tendencies (right or left) 
are dethroned, the same old thing is bound to 

Good luck on your next publication and 
thanks for the good reading. 

K. SF 

Dear K, 

Thank you for your letter and your 
appreciative comments on the magazine. At 
the risk of sounding unduly concerned with 
semantics, I want to make a few comments 
on your description of PW's stance as 
"left-wing. " Processed World was conceived 
as an antidote to the left's traditionally 
sterile, unimaginative ideas and actions. If 
being "left-wing" means being anti- 
capitalist, then we're left-wing, but unlike so 
much of the Left, whether New or Old, Blue 
or Borrowed, we would also call ourselves 
anti-authoritarians. We believe that social 
conditions in both Soviet and Western blocs 
need to be revolutionized, and that such a 
transformation will be brought about by the 
organized spontaneity of those whom leftists 
refer to disdainfully as the "masses." 

I sympathize with your impatience with pat 
left-wing solutions, but I am hesitant to 
ascribe social injustice to genetic accident, as 
you do. I don't know who or what an 
alpha-male is nor how you dethrone this 
strange beast — through genetic engi- 
neering? psycho-surgery of all male child- 
ren? I think we should realize that despite, 
and even because of, the [revolting] privi- 
leges men have reaped from patriarchy, they 
are nonetheless oppressed as workers and as 
human beings. Hence, they have a necessary 
role in transforming social life [and, by 
extension, themselves]. 

I also don't think that the evolutions of 
patriarchy and technology are mutually 
conditioned. One need only look at the 
mutilation of women practiced by various 
tribes around the world, or the domination of 
non-technological social groupings by male 
"elders," to see that the issue is not as 
simple as it seems. The struggle for women's 
emancipation cuts across social and techno- 
logical differences, and its victory will put an 


end to the unceasing parade of "same old 
things. " 

I'd he interested to hear what you think 
about all this and other matters. Good luck to 
you, and here's hoping that present condi- 
tions are as temporary as our employment 


Best wishes, 

Chris Winks 


Folks - 

Thanks for the information about the 
PG&E gas/PCB leak at Embarcadero [See 
"Oops! Notes on an Unnatural Disaster" in 
this issue] . I had no idea that in a disaster the 
"authorities and bosses" would think first of 
money and only later of their public image., 
oops, I mean the health of their workers. 
Naive! I should' ve known from the way 
people are used in nuclear power plants 
clean-ups like old rags. 

Anyway, send me more information about 
what we can do. Also, please mark envelope 
personal so they won't open if for me. 



San Francisco 

Dear Processed World, 

I've read both numbers 1 & 2 of Processed 
World with much interest and .-ympathy. I do 
feel that I must comment on the article titled 
"Stanford Office Workers Reject Union" in 
issue # 2, as I was involved in the organizing 
effort. I will keep my comments brief. 

First, I think it should be noted that 
Stanford clericals voted 2-to-l to reject 
affiliation with United Stanford Workers 
(U.S.W.), not United Stanford Employees 
(U.S.E.) as indicated in your article. U.S.E. 
became U.S.W. in April, 1981. 

Secondly, the Office Staff Organizing 
Committee (O.S.O.C.) did not ask for 
University recognition as a bargaining agent 
in August, 1979. True, a large public 
meeting was held then. A majority of those 

attending that event signed authorization, or 
as they became known "Blue Cards". 
Signing these cards was an indication of 
support for the then U.S.E. Local 680, 
because they meant that clericals were 
beginning a petitioning effort that would 
allow them to form a separate bargaining 
unit within 680 to haggle their price with the 

Thirdly, S.E.I.U. may or may not have 
made exaggerated claims about, "the pros- 
pect of improving wages and working 
conditions at Stanford through collective 
bargaining." This was not proven to my 
satisfaction in the article. Bartering over the 
price of the skills you have to sell is easier 
when you're more powerful, i.e. organized. 
Neither being in the actual struggle nor 
reading P. W. , has suggested to me that the 
clericals at Stanford would have been able to 
achieve more collective power than they 
would have, had they unionized. Further, 
"many" may indeed have been "skeptical 
about the extent to which a union would 
improve their overall job satisfaction" but 
these "many" were not those whose present 
mentality would embrace a goal of classless, 
self- managed production for use. The 
"many" who voted against the union were 
those who would for example most likely see 
the E.R.A. as a threat to all true ladies and 

So, to my mind, the question of office 
workers having been right "in believing that 
the union wouldn't have been able to deliver 
on promises made during the campaign" 
falsely assumes that any such workers 
believed so because they were too advanced 
for trade unionism. Although I wish I had, I 
never once met such a clerical during the 
organizing campaign. Anti-unionists ere 
almost without exception coming fiom a 
perspective dominated by a traditional, 
narrowly individualistic ideology. 

Maybe it is time to raise the stakes. I hope 
we find a way. There are many relevant 
observations and criticisms in PW which 
shed light on the direction we need to go. 
The dialogue you encourage should help us 
all learn from each other. 

for the end of sold time, 

Dear Y, 

I regret having made factual errors in the 
SEIU/ Stanford article. I got my information 
from union and university publications. For 
example, in the Stanford Daily, many articles 


on the election indicated the voting was on 
whether or not clericals would have USE 
Local 715 as their bargaining agent {c.f. April 
23rd issue). 

The union implied that a contract could 
win for Stanford workers economic benefits 
such as 90 days a year sick leave, three 
weeks vacation, and other gains they claimed 
had been won by clericals in SE1U Local 925. 
Union publications insisted that a contract 
would guarantee the rights and dignity of 
clericals on the job. [They compared it to the 
Bill of Rights... Since when has the Bill of 
Rights protected workers from managers?) 
But no reference was ever made to the 
leverage workers could use to gain these 
ends. The implication was that a good 
contract could be won without a strike or any 
other form of pressure that could be brought 
to bear on the Administration. Maybe I'm 
overly pessimistic, but I doubt the Admini- 
stration would bend so easily at the 
bargaining table, especially given the cur- 
rent anti-labor climate in this country. The 
examples of Blue Shield in S.F. and PATCO 
reinforce my doubts. 

Finally, I didn 't at all mean to imply that 
workers who rejected the union were "too 
advanced for trade unionism." To the 
contrary, I noted "the apparent reluctance of 
workers at Stanford to stand up to manage- 
ment as an organized group with collective 
demands and common interests is a serious 
obstacle to any attempts to improve their 
conditions. " It's just that I'm not sure that a 
union which you yourself characterize as 
'totalitarian' and 'authoritarian' is the best 
way to encourage people to seek common 
cause with their coworkers. 


Dear Maxine, 

You make an astute observation when you 
say, "But no reference was ever made to the 
leverage workers could use to gain these 
ends" (referring to economic gains). There 
was debate among people in OSOC on 
whether to or not to soft sell the strike 
aspects of unionizing. I was in favor of 
bringing it out in the open, but others 

thought differently. I think that tactically 
they were right, but I still have my doubts. 
The University made much of the possibility 
of a strike and the confrontational aspects of 
unions. Perhaps we played into their hands 
by avoiding the issue. I thought so at the 
time. But then again, I do see the other side 
of this question. We may have scared even 
more people away from us. It is a delicate 
point that can't be solved through forms of 
pure honesty or pure and simple political 

Unfortunately, I disagree again with your 
comment on the Bill of Rights. I do think that 
the Bill of Rights protects many workers from 
many employers, who if they had their way 
would impose restrictions on many activities 
that they don't now, for fear of bringing law 
suits down on their heads. Besides the real 
point of all that propaganda was to empha- 
size that employers are much less apt to step 
all over workers, if they face legal sanctions 
involved with breaking a contract. I agree 
that the Union's propaganda was a little too 
optimistic here. But I'm a communist and 
most unionists don't share my perspective in 
dealing with capitalists. By the way, most 
clericals at Stanford already get 3 weeks of 
vacation a year. 

As to what we could actually win from the 
University, that's an entirely different bag of 
tricks. I think you may be overly pessimistic 
here. What we could win would depend 
largely on the balance of forces at the time. 
But no one could predict in advance, at least 
this far in advance, how much we could get. 
Again, the Union was being too optimistic. 
History is more fluid than either position 
allows. I think it is well to point out to 
workers that a strike may fail and that 
take-aways might happen. A group has to 
feel out the situation and not rely on blind 
optimism or resign themselves to automatic 

Finally, my characterization of the union 
as "authoritarian" and "totalitarian" were 
rather poor attempts at sarcasm on my part. 
I'm glad that you don't believe that workers 
are beyond trade union consciousness at the 
moment. Of course things can change, the 
history of the 1905 aborted revolution in 
Russia and the Paris Commune demonstrate 
that. I really don't know how workers could 
combine more effectively at the moment than 
in trade unions; they have too many illusions 
about the rule of capital. Maybe you do have 
that answer. 



Dear Y, 

I understand that the prospect of strikes, 
or any other direct confrontation with 
management, could have made Stanford 
clericals even more reluctant to join the 
union. But I think there is something 
fundamentally wrong with concealing the 
fact that militant actions by workers them- 
selves are necessary to make substantial 
gains at the workplace. It leads people to 
believe that all they have to do is vote for 
representation, pay dues and the union will 
take care of the rest. Once installed, the 
structure of the unions and the terms of 
contracts with management further reinforce 
workers' passivity. In my opinion this 
passivity is one of the greatest obstacles we 
face in getting people to think and act in 
ways that will lead to the kinds of changes in 
society that have been discussed in the pages 
of Processed World. 

As for the Bill of Rights: Do workers have 
freedom of speech on the job? Are they 
permitted to assemble freely? Certainly not 

in any job I've had. The one time I told a boss 
what I thought about how he treated the 
secretaries in the office I was fired on the 

Sure, contracts have allowed a modicum of 
security for some unionized workers. But 
most contracts also contain clauses guaran- 
teeing management's "right" to make 
decisions on any issues of substance that 
may come up during the contract period, as 
well as commitments not to strike. Thus the 
legal sanctions involved in contracts also 
present a real hindrance for workers ready to 
fight for what they want (By the way, did you 
know that in the whole U.S., the NLRB has at 
its disposal two lawyers to handle contempt 
of court cases against employers found guilty 
in court of having unfair labor practices?) 

Unionization drives tend to be most 
effective when they are backed up by direct 
action against management's prerogatives, 
but once the union is securely established, it 
defines the terms of any subsequent actions. 
Given the present situation, where most 
office workers (and indeed, most of the work 
force) do not belong to unions, it would seem 
more sensible at this late hour to encourage 
the direct action and forget the "acceptable" 
(if convenient) solution of unions. If people 
gain the confidence that direct action can 
provide, they can and should withstand the 
temptation to "let the steward /delegate 
handle it" and instead create informal groups 
put pressure on management and its allies. 
In many workplaces, whenever people share 
their grievances and problems, the nucleus 
of such groupings already exists. The same 
people who get together on breaks to 
complain about their bosses are just as 
capable of mounting a challenge to all 
workplace hierarchy. Of course, we don't 
know how this can be done — but we're 
trying everyday to find out, from ourselves 
and from others. That's why we created PW 
in the first place. 



You too can transform an ordinary office copier into a Machine D' Art. No 
need to dull your mind and increase your radiation level by cranking out 
x-hundred copies of your boss' endlessly boring drivel. Instead, pick up a 
stray cat, a leftover sandwich, or whatever turns on your creative juices, 
arrange them on the xerox platter, and fire away. Send us your creations 
(no originals please) and PW will print the copy we like best in the next 



Wage Work & Housework 

"There is nothing more beautiful 
than a mother. . .it is important that we 
uphold the family or our nation will 
crumble," say the Senators (Jepsen 
from Iowa, Laxalt from Nevada and 
Albert Lee Smith from Alabama) who 
are sponsoring the Family Protection 
Bill. . 

The revised Family Protection Bill 
now before congress is designed to 
"uphold the American family" and 
restore the "historical role" of 
womerr in the home. Among other 
measures, the Bill would "prevent 
federal funds from being used to 
promote educational material that 
' ' denigrates the role of women as it has 
been historically understood," pro- 
hibit the Legal Services Corporation 
from using any funds for cases 
involving abortion, divorce and 
homosexual rights, and give married 
couples a $1000 tax break for the year 
a child is born. 


The conditions of family life in the 
U.S. and the role of women within it 
have changed more than once since 
the Declaration of Independence. We 
might well ask how idyllic is the past 
conjured up by the New Right's vague 
appeals to "history and tradition." 
What are the destructive forces that 
have led women from the beauty of 
motherhood and housewifery and to 
what kind of home and family should 
she return? 

From Colonial times right up into 
the mid 1920's women in rural 
America were almost exclusively 
homemakers. Largely self-sufficient 

farming families comprised a majority 
of the population, and women's work 
consisted of gardening, raising live- 
stock, baking, cooking, and making 
and cleaning clothes. Male and 
female roles within the family often 
overlapped — though less so as time 
went on, and never to the extent of 
making women equal. The need to 
work together in. order to survive 
cemented tb^ lamily as prayer and 
marriage counselors could never have 

For the New Right, free enterprise 
is a bastion of freedom alongside ' 'the 
family." Yet it was the logical 
development of free enterprise — the 
growth of industrial capitalism and its 
cheap mass-produced goods ~ that 
wiped out the family farm. "Robber 
barons" turned farming into big 
business, driving homesteaders into 
debt and off their land, while the 
ever-growing demand for labor in the 
mills, workshops, canneries and 
slaughterhouses was met by one-time 
farmers. Companies like Sears 
Roebuck made it cheaper to buy 
factory products than to make them in 
the home. By the early 1900 's most 
goods that families needed were 
produced in factories, and by the end 
of the 1920's, purchases at retail 
stores accounted for 2/3 of the 
national income. 

Proponents of the "Family Protec- 
tion Bill" would be unlikely to 
welcome the end of capitalist industry 
and a return to family-based agri- 
culture. The industrialization of the 
nation, after all, was the foundation of 
the corporate wealth of which they are 
the spokesmen and heirs. (Still, it is 



pleasant to picture Senator Laxalt 
slopping the hogs, or Phyllis Schlafly 
scrubbing diapers on the washboard.) 
What the framers of the Family 
Protection Bill probably have in mind 
is a much more recent and short-lived 
version of True Womanhood -- the 
middle-class suburban housewife of 
the 'fifties. In fact, domestic life for 
most people in the 50 's was much 
more like "The Honeymooners" than 
"Father Knows Best." The majority 
of wives stayed home all right ~ but in 
tacky tract houses and cramped 
apartments. And they worked — 
mending, washing, cleaning, nursing, 


By the 50' s many women already 
failed to fit the stereotype of the 
stay-at-home housewife. One third of 
the female population, representing 
21% of the labor force, worked 
outside the home in 1950. 25% of 
them were married. Men returning 
from WWII had replaced thousands of 
Rosie Riveters in the better-paid 
industrial jobs. For women who were 
unable or unwilling to resume full- 
time work in their homes, the bur- 
geoning clerical and service sectors 
offered jobs — but at a fraction of the 

' . . . it is pleasant to picture Senator Laxalt 
slopping the hogs, or Phyllis Schlafly 
scrubbing diapers on a washboard." 

cooking. The "family wage" their 
husbands earned stretched to the end 
of the month, if at all, because women 
scrimped, substituted, bargainhunted 
and made do. 

pay they had earned in heavy 

Meanwhile, the huge growth in the 
production of consumer durables — 
cars and home appliances — encour- 
aged the shift of "women's work" 



'Sure, here in my castle I'm king, but out there, 
where everything counts, what am It" 

from the home to the marketplace. 
Blenders and cake batter enabled 
women to spend less time in the 
kitchen — but it was women who 
worked in cafeterias, canned tuna, 
and assembled TV dinners. Women 
"saved time" by buying readymade 
clothes and sta-prest shirts, but they 
worked eight hours a day as clerks in 
the new department stores or as 
seamstresses in sweatshops in the 
inner cities. Women got vacuum- 
cleaners to replace their brooms and 
TV's to keep the children quiet — but 
it was often women who put the TV's 
and vacuum-cleaners together. 

Even with all these modern con- 
veniences housework took just about 
as long as it always had. Between 
1926 and 1966, the average full-time 
housewife spent about 50 hours a 
week on it. 

In part, this can be explained by 

higher standards of housekeeping and 
family care, fostered and some- 
times concocted by advertising agen- 
cies. Housewives were encouraged to 
show their devotion by ensuring the 
whiteness of their husband's shirts 
and children's teeth and the shine on 
the coffee table and the kitchen floor. 
Much of the time saved by the 
mechanization of household tasks was 
spent shopping for and using the 
array of new products that were now 
deemed necessary for a happy, heal- 
thy family life. 


Throughout the sixties and seven- 
ties, women entered the waged 
workforce in greater numbers than 
ever before. Between roughly 1950 
and 1965, living standards for the 
majority of American families had 



increased at least enough to create a 
widespread expectation that they 
would go on rising. But when the 
Johnson administration decided to 
escalate the war in Southeast Asia, it 
also escalated the rate of inflation. 

Meanwhile, a huge expansion in 
personal credit had allowed millions 
to enter the market for consumer 
durables. By the mid-60' s, however, 
the combination of debt and inflation 
meant that for many families one 
income alone was not enough to cover 
the food and medical bills and the 
payments due on the mortgage, the 
car and the TV. Wives went to work to 
make ends meet and their wages 
acted as a buffer against poverty and 

For many of these women, as for 
others whose families could have 
gotten by on their husbands' wages, a 
job was also an escape. It meant 
getting away from boredom, isolation, 
and subordination to the needs of 
hubbie and the kids. It meant some 
respite from the authority of hus- 
bands who acted like bosses at home 
to compensate for being treated like 
slaves at work. 

The routine of the office or the 
factory often turned out to be as 

dreary and tyrannical as the routine at 
home. Nevertheless, going to work 
did mean a chance to meet people 
again, and gain a sense of indepen- 
dence and self-esteem. Women ac- 
quired money and friends of their 
own, and a life that was more than a 
subset of their husband's. The coun- 
terculture and the women's move- 
ment of the late 60 's and early 70 's 
sought alternatives to the nuclear 
family, and encouraged many women 
to leave the domestic ghettoes. 

Most affected by these changes 
were married women with children in 
the home. In 1978, 70% of all working 
women between the ages of 25 and 34 
were in that category. By 1979, 51% 
of all women over 16 were working for 
wages outside the home. As of 1980 
only 17% of all American families 
corresponded to the 50 's Dagwood- 
and-Blondie stereotype. 

As the myth of the happy housewife 
collapsed, advertising and the mass 
media scrambled for a new image 
with which to entice women. By the 
mid-70' s, the Virginia Slim Girl and 
the Career-Woman-in-a-Tweed-Suit- 
Climbing-the-Executive-Ladder be- 
gan replacing the Mom-the-Home- 
maker in billboards and soap operas. 



- Doman ds- 

1. Make America a Man Again: Invade Abroad! 

2. Protect the Rights of the Unconceived: sperms and eggs are people, 
too, yet billions are murdered daily! 

3. Restore Virginity as a High School Graduation Requirement. 

4. Suffering — Not Suffrage: Out of the voting booth and into the 
maternity ward! 

5. 59 cents is too much: it is Unladylike to accept money for work. 

6. Burn Faggots: (this term used to refer to firewood, now it means 
them.) what was good enough for the Dark Ages is good enough for 
the Reagan Years! 

7. Procreation, Not Recreation: recriminalize sex; close your eyes and 
do your duty! 

YES! □ We Ladies Against Women should be seen and not heard — I want to be 
seen with you, in proper polyester attire, at urgent unladylike events, to 
uphold the L.A.W. ! Tell me more! 

My Name: Husband's permission? 

Address: Zip: 

(Mail to L.A. W. in care of the Reagan for Shah Committee-, 1600 Woolsey #7; 
Berkeley, CA. 94703. Donations — including Krugerrands or checks from your 
husband or father — are always welcome.) Misterhood IS Powerful! Have Him 
join our men's auxilliary. 

L.A.W. Supports the Moral Monopoly 

We have a Monopoly on Morality. God, Inc., is on Our side! ©S1L.A. W. 

In fact, few women ever earn 
enough to afford the fancy wardrobes 
and elegant homes that fill the pages 
of magazines like Ms. or Working 
Women. Four out of five employed 
women work in repetitive, boring jobs 
at low wages. The average wage for 
women is 59% of that for men, and 
despite the growing proportion of 
women in the workforce, this gap 
actually widened between the mid- 
50's and the mid-70's. 


Even when they have full-time jobs, 
women with families still do most of 
the housework and childcare. A 
recent survey in Working Mothers 
magazine found that two-thirds of the 
respondents got little or no help from 

with the role of servant, of inferior. It 
is not laziness alone that makes men 
resist doing 'housework' — it is also a 
deep-seated sense that it would be 
humiliating for them. 

This feeling is reinforced by 
"housework's" economic status, or 
rather non-status. Despite the phony 
aura of respect and even sanctity that 
surrounds women's role in the home, 
it is still seen as "marginal" and 
unproductive. Official statistics de- 
tailing "economic activity" ignore 
housework. It is not included in the 
GNP, because it is not paid. 

Money is the primary source of 
status and power in this society, and 
accumulating it as "capital" is this 
society's primary goal. Consequently, 
no matter how useful an activity may 
be, it is not really considered work 

1 ' For many of these women ... a job was also 

an escape. 

> > 

their husbands with household tasks. 
The one out of three husbands who 
did share in domestic tasks mostly 
acted as though they were doing their 
wives a favor. 

Why is it that most men still won't 
do housework? The obvious answer is 
that they'll avoid any extra work as 
long as they can pressure their wives, 
lovers or mothers into doing it. Also, 
of course, nearly all women are still 
conditioned from childhood to look on 
housework as their responsibility. 

But the problem goes deeper. The 
majority of men will do a range of 
necessary household tasks — repairs, 
painting, mowing, and so on. What 
distinguishes such 'work around the 
house' from 'housework?' To begin 
with, these are tasks men have 
traditionally done for money outside 
the home, whether as skilled crafts- 
men or as laborers. By contrast, the 
tasks that now make up 'housework' 
—cleaning, laundering, cooking, shop- 
ping and childcare ~ are all associated 

unless it is exchanged for money. The 
labor a woman expends mopping the 
floor or bottle-feeding her baby is 
economically visible only as the tools 
and materials she buys to do it with, 
while the work of the sales clerk who 
takes her money shows up as "pro- 
ductive." (This is not to say that sales 
clerks don't work hard. They do, but 
like so many modern jobs, theirs is 
"useful" only to business.) 

The housewife's labor is by far the 
biggest category of "invisible" work. 
Yet this labor is indispensable to the 
functioning of the officially-recog- 
nized economy in more ways than 
one. Physical care for the home and 
its occupants is only the beginning. 

Virtually all major schools of psy- 
chology agree that the discipline a 
child gets in the first five years of life 
is crucial to shaping its personality. 
This discipline is most effective when 
based not so much on scoldings and 
spankings as on affection and appro- 
val in return for "appropriate" be- 



havior. The desire for approval from 
those in power is arguably as impor- 
tant as the fear of punishment. And it 
is overwhelmingly mothers who give 
approval and withhold it from small 

"Womanly" care not only dis- 
ciplines future workers, it supports 
present ones. The majority of wives 
continue to mother their husbands — 
preparing their food, looking after 
their clothes, cleaning up after them, 
giving them the unconditional affec- 
tion and "understanding" that in our 
society comes otherwise only from 
parents. In our culture, wives are still 
meant to be responsible for making 
the home into a haven of comfort and 
security protected from the increas- 

ingly cold, dirty and dangerous 
outside world. 

Traditional women's jobs outside 
the home extend this nurturing/ 
servant role. Even the most virulent 
anti-feminists have no objection to 
unmarried women serving as elemen- 
tary school teachers, nurses and 
secretaries. In its more diffuse form, 
"women's work" buffers the other- 
wise harsh and impersonal transac- 
tions that make up the bulk of 
everyday social contact in a money- 
based society. This is a vital task of 
receptionists, checkers and sales la- 
dies in particular, but it also makes up 
much of the real work of waitresses, 
telephone operators, flight attendants 
and other "service providers." 



The modern women's movement 
has been from the beginning a revolt 
against this role. In a way, the 
anti-feminists are correct - women 
really are contributing to the break- 
down of the family and "traditional" 

point to Mom's tender care. Without 
a job, Mom would be isolated in the 
home, unable to choose whether or 
not she wants a child since abortion 
would be outlawed and female con- 
traceptives hard to obtain. Besides, 

"Work, in its present sense, is ripe for 
abolition, along with the whole system built 
around it." 

morality by refusing to play the roles 
assigned to them at home and at 
work. And contraception, abortion 
and divorce really do allow women to 
separate tenderness and sexuality 
from the rigid channels of monogamy, 
marriage and childrearing. 


The New Right's obsession with 
"the family" thus covers an intricate 
complex of problems — the breakdown 
of authority, the instability of institu- 
tions and the general lack of ' 'caring' ' 
and community. The main support for 
the New Right's sexual politics comes 
mostly from vague fears and resent- 
ments ~ if women become like men, if 
they won't be the soft, passive 
mattress for society to rest on, life 
will become even more of a nightmare 
of coldness and chaos. 

The more pragmatic neo-conserv- 
atives clearly recognize the impor- 
tance of women in adapting children 
to capitalist society and making it 
bearable for adults. They see the 
restoration of women's role in the 
nuclear family as crucial to repairing 
the chain of command that stretches 
from the heights of business and 
government, down through the layers 
of bureaucracy, corporate and church 
hierarchy, to the husband, and thence 
to his wife and children. 

In the New Right's fantasy, Dad's 
role at home would once again be that 
of ultimate authority, stern counter- 

with the restoration of patriarchal sex 
morality, she would never have 
known other lovers. Meanwhile, un- 
married widows and spinsters would 
continue to do "women's work" 
outside the home. 

Fortunately, this dismal dream is 
unattainable. The vast majority of 
women cannot go back to the "full- 
time housewife and mother" role 
even if they want to. The old style 
housewife had invisible means of 
suDDort which no longer exist. 

From the decaying, noisy inner- 
city neighborhoods most working- 
class families still inhabited in the 
'50's, a suburban tract home looked 
like paradise. But the old neighbor- 
hood turned out to have had one 
advantage many women had taken for 
granted — community. Aunts, grand- 
mothers and cousins shared with 
mothers the tasks of childrearing. 
And each of these women was herself 
also nurtured and supported by a 
network of others - neighbors and 
co-workers as well as relatives. 

This women's support network was 
only the most crucial of any number of 
formal and informal associations that 
made traditional marriage viable. The 
industrial market economy has des- 
troyed such community, not all at 
once but gradually, over and over 
again. Some people move because 
they have to follow the jobs, others to 
escape small-town boredom or urban 
pollution and crime, still others 
because their neighborhoods became 



industrial parks, shopping centers or 
homes for the wealthy. 

In any case, the result is the same. 
Community re-establishes itself as 
new suburbs are built and neighbor- 
hoods change hands, but each time it 
is a little weaker, a little more 
artificial. The pathetic remnant called 
the nuclear family is being forced to 
carry on the nurturing and support 
functions once shared by dozens of 


In the sixties and seventies, go- 
vernment stepped in to bolster the 
family and take on some of its 
previous functions via social work, 
psychiatry, childcare facilities, 
schools and juvenile authorities. But 
as the Reagan forces never tire of 
pointing out, government has failed in 
these tasks. 

The Reaganite response has been 
the elimination of much of the direct 
Federal backup for the family and the 
substitution of a mixture of selective 
tax cuts, sermons from the Presiden- 
tial pulpit and repressive legislation 
like the Family Protection Bill. These 
tactics are typical of their whole social 
and economic program which is 
bound to backfire in view of the 
current global economic downturn. 

Already, in the depressed indus- 
trial zones of the Midwest and 
Northeast, massive layoffs in auto, 
rubber and steel have forced millions 
of families to depend on women's 
wages. Also, more single women 
must work to support their children. 
In 1978, 14% of all families were 
maintained by single women as 
compared with 9% in 1950 and 
Reagan's cuts in welfare will sharply 
increase their percentage. 

Likewise, the slashing of social 
services such as the school lunch, 



<*t; •■ m if ] 


i ^rTj\[i 




Go farther 
with Father/ 

For June 20th, the day when Dad counts 
most oi all, remember him with a gilt that 
hell receive with pleasure and wear with 
pride. Wrinkles will always "hang 
out" overnight. At good 
dealers everywhere. 

childcare and Medicaid creates still 
more pressure on women to earn 
money at the same time as it 
increases the amount of domestic 
work. Unless husbands begin earning 
more to compensate, women must 
hold on to their jobs or accept severe 
cuts in living standards. In fact, a 
growing percentage of families are 
barely scraping by on two incomes. 

Except for the Pope, who in this 
case is more consistent in his views, 
advocates of the one-income nuclear 
family are not calling for a restoration 
of the "family wage" — quite the 
contrary. The Reagan administration, 
following the Carter administration in 

this as in so many other ways, is 
calling for "wage restraint" even 
though real wages have been falling 
since 1978 and are now lower than 
they were in 1965. Reagan has backed 
up this call with the exemplary 
thrashing he gave the air-traffic 
controllers which was clearly intended 
both to intimidate other workers and 
serve as an example to private-sector 

While liberals and right-wingers 
agree on the need to hold down 
wages, the New Right program for 
women and the family is being 
attacked even by traditional conser- 
vative Republicans like Barry Gold- 



,^ se *" 


quit your job! 

water. Such critics recognize that 
women are no more likely to quit their 
jobs voluntarily than they are to stop 
having abortions. But a sufficiently 
massive anti-feminist, "pro-family" 
campaign in the media and the 
churches could nonetheless serve the 
common aims of America's ruling 
elite. TV shows are already beginning 
to appear which portray working 
mothers as selfish egotists who 
neglect their children. Along with the 
Family Protection Bill, such efforts 
may create a climate of guilt and 
intimidation among women workers 
which could reinforce the subtle ways 
that employers discriminate aganst 
them. It could also help to justify the 
further layoffs that are sure to come 
as the economy is "restructured." 


For decades women have struggled 
to forge individual identities separate 
from "their" men. In the existing 
world, working for money is the only 
obvious way of doing this. Most 
women's groups therefore tend to 
view the question of work in terms of 
"equality" with men. This perspec- 
tive is especially tempting given the 
current attack on women's rights, 
which has put feminists on the 

At its most conservative, the fight 
for "Equality" means individually 
climbing the corporate and govern- 
mental hierarchies. Since they must 

compete fiercely with other women as 
well as men, the few women who do 
make it as executives and politicians 
become as ruthless and authoritarian 
as their male counterparts. Britain's 
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 
promotes layoffs and social service 
cuts with the same vigor as Ronald 
Reagan, while San Francisco's female 
supervisors voted with their male 
colleagues against wage parity for 
women city workers. Putting on the 
boot of authority is no more a 
solution for women than licking it. 

More progressive groups, like 
Working Women, fight for improved 
pay and conditions, but try to justify 
this by raising the social status of the 
jobs most women do (see "Raises, 
Rights, Respect... Alienation" in Pro- 
cessed World #2). Unfortunately, 
these jobs are generally boring and 
repetitious however you dress them 
up. There is little space for pleasure 
and creativity in waiting tables, 
entering data on a VDT, or running 
the same seams through a sewing 
machine over and over again. 

Moreover, the primary aim of the 



V g °et promoted to National 
District Manager bV 

being soft on my 

bulk of clerical and "service" work, 
where most women workers are 
concentrated, is to ensure the orderly 
circulation of money for business. A 
very large proportion of industrial 
production, too, is either deliberately 
shoddy or pure rubbish. And even 
most so-called "helping" jobs, like 
health care and social work, are only 
necessary because this society makes 
so many people poor, sick and 
miserable. To glorify almost any job 
today is to glorify slavery and waste. 
In fact, technology has developed to 
the point that the system cannot 
generate even useless jobs fast 
enough anymore. "Work" in its 
present sense is ripe for abolition along 
with the whole society built around it 
(see "New Information Technology: 
For What?" in Processed World HI). 
To create a world where human 
relationships are no longer constrain- 
ed by economic forces at all, "the 
economy" would have to cease to 

In its place, we could organize the 
cooperative production of goods and 
services, and distribute them freely. 
Most ' 'work' ' could be done by people 
who actually enjoyed it, and the 
remaining inherently boring or un- 
pleasant tasks divided up so that 
no-one would have to do them for 
more than a few hours a month. The 
same principle would apply to hous- 
ing: people would not have to live 
together for any reason other than 
mutual attraction. 

The consequences for women in 
particular would be momentous. They 
would be as free as anyone else to 



choose the tasks they did and the 
company they kept. No longer would 
they be forced to provide nurturing in 
exchange for material and emotional 
security. Men themselves, finally 
relieved of the puritan-macho ethic of 
"earning a living," would be far 
readier to share such nurturing. 
Childcare would cease to be the 
exclusive duty of the biological parents 
and become once again the respons- 
ibility of the surrounding community 
as well. Children, cared for and loved 
to varying degrees by neighbors and 
co- "workers," would be freed from 
total emotional dependence on one or 
two adults and from the resultant 
anxiety and neurosis. Nor would 
children any longer be used by 
parents as a butt for their frustra- 
tions, as a repository for their 
unfulfilled desires and ambitions, or 
as cement for their fractured mar- 

Sexuality would change too, in 

ways hard to foresee. Certainly, 
though, no one would have to use sex 
as a means to obtain power, let alone 
money or property. With people once 
again free to use their bodies in a 
wide variety of productive and playful 
ways, with their imaginations and 
senses released from nine-to-five jail, 
sex would cease to be the privileged 
refuge of sensuality and tenderness it 
is today. Like work and "art" it would 
be woven back into the texture of 
everyday life as part of a rich, 
complex continuum of efforts and 
pleasures. Of course there would still 
be long-lasting, even exclusive 
attachments, just as there would still 
be the pains of one-sided longing, 
jealousy and loss. But joys and griefs 
alike would be shared for the first 
time by equals. 

A truly free society is still far away 
— not because we lack the technical 
means to make it real, but because 
the way we have to live makes it 

iLhoritarianism Begins at Home 



almost impossible to imagine any- 
thing different, let alone work to- 
wards it. It's hard to believe in a 
vision of a world based on free 
cooperation and sharing when our 
daily experience tells us that most 
people are either competitive and 
power-hungry or else submissive and 

But nothing changes people like 
fighting together for common ends 
against the powers that be. Collab- 
orating and thinking for one's own 
purposes, standing up to authority, 
can overcome the habits of a lifetime. 

Until wagework and money can be 
retired altogether, women — and men 
—can go on fighting for more money 
and less work, and beyond that, for 
the time and space to develop their 
own skills, creativity and perceptions 
of the world. 

to be broken down. Women living 
with men can simply refuse to do 
more than a fair share of housework, 
even if it means, say, a dirty 
bathroom for a few weeks. At the 
beginning this increases tension 
no more than working women's 
growing exasperation at being stuck 
with the whole job. 

Unemployed women can also or- 
ganize in their neighborhoods. In 
Italy, housewives have led rate and 
rent strikes, blocked evictions, and 
have also practiced "self-reduction" 
as a weapon against inflation — going 
into stores in groups of fifty to a 
hundred, taking what they need and 
paying what they think it's really 
worth, or whatever they can reason- 
ably afford. 

The development of this society 
itself has done much to undermine the 

Women can only defend the limited freedom 
they already have by going on the offensive... 

In particular, women can organize 
on the job to resist layoffs and 
takeaways. It is useful to oppose all 
wage hierarchies, not just those based 
on gender, since all of them are used 
to divide us. "Comparable worth" 
formulas, although they help raise 
some women's pay, tend to recreate 
wage hierarchies along different lines 
(see "Compared To What?" in this 

Childcare especially needs to be 
fought for. Working women — and 
fathers — can demand day-care 
centers for their children, using 
tactics like the "child-in" — bringing 
their kids to work anyway until the 
need is met. Standing behind the 
demands of mothers already on 
welfare is also essential. A great 
many female office workers with 
children may be needing welfare 
themselves before too long. 

At home, the old roles can continue 

old role of women, just as it has 
undermined the old meaning of work 
— and for many of the same reasons. 
Yet this society artificially prolongs 
the subservience of most women, and 
the stupidity and pointlessness of 
most work, just to keep itself going. 
Women will gain nothing by copping 
to any of the "progressive" versions 
of family worship and sexual repres- 
sion that liberals and radicals are 
offering as a sop to "the new 
conservatism." Nor will workers in 
general gain anything by demanding 
"jobs." Women can only defend the 
limited freedom they have already 
won by going on the offensive — 
against a world that no one but the 
few who control it can really be at 
home in. 

— By Maxine Holz 
& Louis Michaelson 







Pooperscooper U. — a pet hospital 
stuck like a hairball in the throat of 
one of San Francisco's poshest en- 
claves. I got myself hired as a 
receptionist there in a moment of 
economic panic. 

Three months later, the obsessive 
cocker-suckers and poodle-diddlers 
that stump and stagger through 
P.U.'s piddle- varnished portals have 
me baring my teeth. So has my 
supervisor, an obese Sha-Na-Na fan 
and neo-Nazi known to the rest of us 
"Kh*ls" as the Elephant Woman. Not 
to mention the stunningly meager pay 
rate ($3.75/hr.) or the exalted status I 
enjoy as one of the kickballs on the 
front desk. But the best part of this 
nine-to-six stint is that it offers no 
opportunity for advancement, let 
alone for taking a creative five 
minutes on the crapper. 

The duties assigned to us, the 
under-underdogs, are varied and 
colorful. First, there is check-in. Say a 
cluster of German-speaking ladies 
comes hurtling in — mother, grand- 
mother and three teenage daughters, 
all dressed in tight skirts and tennis 

shoes. They are moaning up a storm 

— something about a fluffy my own 
has been hit! A big black limousine 
has crushed his tiny bones. I whip out 
a registration form. With a confident 
flourish, I indicate to the larger of the 
two matrons which sections she must 
fill out. 

"But my address — who can 
remember? What is a Sip Code? Fuffy 

— he is a male — could you not tell?" 
(Sure, lady, with a microscope.) 

"Okay, now what exactly happened 
to (guk) Fifi?" The moaning starts 
again in five-part harmony. Just then 
a tired-looking bald guy emerges from 
an equally tired-looking black Volks- 
wagon outside and tries to explain, 
while the women go into a huddle. 
"Look, this little fuzzy thing took a 
hike across the street just as the light 
turns green. I'm sorry — I thought it 
was a piece of laundry." Nice try, but 
they don't let him go until he's proved 
he can't finance a week's vacation for 
five at the Mark Hopkins. Poor Mr. 
VW ends up being allowed to pay for 
Foofy's body-lift and a bonus full- 
length sweater, whether sleeved or 



sleeveless to be determined at a late 
date. Mein Gott! 

The (very) personal habits of the 
doctors must also be considered at all 
times. One never snarls: "Young 
Doctor Doctor is having a bowel 
movement, and if everything comes 
out all right, he'll call you back." 
Rather, one chirps: "Doctor Doctor is 
presently in long-distance consul- 
tation with the Philippines. When he 
is through, he will be most happy to 
guide your beloved Doberman 
through the miraculous journey of her 
first natural birthing." 

Nor does one mention that nice old 
Doc Rictus has a tendency to fight 
back when Kitty won't sit still for a 
shave-'n'-shot. "What's that slam- 

ming noise?" Kitty's mom may ask. 
"Why, didn't you know? We have a 
handball court between the lunch- 
room and the back office." Beaming, 
the Doc comes out holding a limp 
Bobo or Noodles in her claw-torn 
hand. "He's just a bit groggy from 
the sedative — don't mind the 
drooling. He may bleed an eensy bit 
when he wakes up. Don't hesitate to 
call, Monday through Saturday, be- 
tween nine and six — " And they 

Yes, P.U.'s receptionists must 
know their stuff, especially over the 
phone. Suppose a young interior 
decorator wants to have his cat 
declawed and dyed violet within three 
days. Never mind the cat's feelings — 



will it be detrimental to the orange- 
focussed bedroom scheme? And tele- 
phone procedure is inflexible. When 
a pug plummets from a seventh-story 
window and the owner inquires: 
"Juno's listless — do you think it's 
due to the fall?", you must go 
through the catechism with the de- 
mure calm of a nun on valium: "Has 
he seen a doctor since the accident/Is 
he bleeding/Is his stool abnormal/Is 
he vomiting/Is he eating? (Amen)." 
"Well he hasn't really moved much 
— he just lies on his back and he's 
sort of stiff when I pet him." Then, 
and only then, you coo: "Sir — here is 
the number of Bubbling Wells Pet 
Cemetary, located in picturesque 

Most traditional feminine occupa- 
tions exploit our maternal impulses — 
the teacher's aid cleaning up after 
brutish children and the secretary 
after childish brutes. P.U. expects its 
desk-jockeys to extend this motherly 
attitude not only to the furry parasites 
which are its patients but to their 
owners and the doctors as well. 

Just let some unruly, unloving 
female at the front desk ask for a 
raise, let alone gag when a fresh fecal 
sample wiggling with worms is 

shoved under her nose, let alone 
scream back at one of the stetho- 
scope-toting prima donnas in the 
surgery, let alone lose her cool with 
even one of the spoiled, peevish or 
penultimately stupid clients or their 
drooling, scabrous, psychotic mam- 
mals. Instantly her decades of train- 
ing are played upon to make her feel 
like a monster, unfit to be a member 
of the U.S. Feminine Love-of-Babies- 
and- Fuzzy-Cripples Institute . 

No one but a congenital idiot would 
pursue a clerical "career" at P.U. 
Even the pink-collar hoboes, the 
temp-worker types who change jobs 
the way richer women change hair- 
styles, don't stop here much. They 
choke on the mingled stench of piss, 
puke and panic even before they hear 
about the pay. 

The rest? Like the patients, they 
come in combinations of four basic 
shades: newborn, desperate, decrep- 
it, and anesthetized. Girls fresh out of 
high school grabbing for the bottom 
rung; shellshocked divorces tiptoeing 
timidly into the labor market; weary 
spinsters whom inflation has elbowed 
out of early retirement; aging "young 
ladies" still listening for the hoof- 
beats of Prince Charming' s charger... 

► , - 



Unusually futile report: 209 
collated, stapled copies. 

L company computet. 

"Solidarity" might as well be a 
brand of margarine to most of them, 
especially Miz Fink whose favorite 
trick is to yell at her colleagues for 
making filing errors just as the 
Elephant Woman lumbers by. Some 
even join in the Guilting Bee, like 
prim little Jersey- 'n' -Pearls who 
never tire of asking: "But isn't it the 
animals we're here for?" Only the 
real basket cases can stand it for long. 
P.U.'s door doesn't just revolve, it 
spins like a centrifuge. 

So goodbye to Pooperscooper U. 
Goodbye to the Puppy Paramedic 
Corps and its pissing and moaning, 
yapping and scratching clientele. 
Goodbye too to the Kat Kare Klub 
where tortoise shell curry-combs and 
French satin ribbons decorate lumps 

of hairy fat that can hardly waddle 
from bowl to box to bed. Goodbye to 
being ranked lower in the scheme of 
things than Persians and their fleas, 
Pit-bulls and their diarrhea. Goodbye 
to all the mental cases who halluci- 
nate an intimate world of love and 
understanding around retarded mu- 
tant carnivores like Elmo the Basset 
Hound, known to his owner as "the 
only man in my life." 

My case is closed. But there will be 
many more to follow in my footsteps 
on this particular hamster- wheel. A 
world which mass-produces loneli- 
ness and boredom, always a little 
faster than it mass-produces the 
merchandise meant to make up for 
them, will see to that. 

— By Melinda Gebbie 








Few groups were less likely to 
challenge the Reagan administration 
than the Professional Air Traffic 
Controllers Organization. Their strike 
was a surprising turn of events given 
the history of the group and the 
context in which the dispute devel- 

When it was formed in the summer 
of 1968, PATCO saw itself more as a 
special interest group than a union. In 
fact, the controllers did not join the 
National Association of Government 
Employees because it was too militant 
and represented too many different 
kinds of government workers. Reject- 
ing strikes as a tactic, PATCO' s 


founding charter stated that the union 
would win its demands by publicizing 
its members' complaints and pres- 
suring Congress. 

Nonetheless, PATCO has staged 
several work-to-rule strikes and sick- 
outs over the years. While they 
succeeded in creating chaos at air- 
ports, they failed to get the Federal 
Aviation Administration (FAA — the 
government agency which employs 
the air traffic controllers) to lighten 
heavy work loads or to increase 
wages. The air traffic controllers' 
demands are the same today as they 
were 13 years ago. 


The pre-strike maneuvers began 
well before this year's contract nego- 
tiations. Even during the Carter 
administration, the government was 
making contingency plans for an 
eventual PATCO strike, which 
the members had in fact threatened. 
Although the more militant Robert 
Poli was elected as president at their 
1980 convention, this did not prevent 
the union from endorsing Reagan for 
president in hopes that, in return for a 
few votes, he would live up to his 
campaign promise to "provide our air 
traffic controllers with the most 
modern equipment... and adjust staff 
levels and work days so that they are 
commensurate with achieving a max- 
imum degree of public safety." After 
Reagan took office, it became clear 
that he had no intention of fulfilling 
those promises beyond appointing a 
new, more "sympathetic," secretary 
to the FA A. 

The usual blustering on both sides 
marked the beginning of the nego- 
tiations for a new contract. The May 
strike deadline passed with the con- 
trollers still on the job. A large 
majority had voted to go out but the 
tally was short of the 80% necessary 
to ratify a strike. The second deadline 
in early August approached as United 
Airlines pilots accepted major com- 
promises and post office workers 
settled only hours away from a strike. 
It seemed unlikely that PATCO, a 
relatively small union, would be the 
first to do battle with the budget- 
cutting Reagan administration. 

But this time even more members 
voted to walk out. The immediate 
results were impressive. Up to 60% of 
all commercial flights were cancelled, 
incurring hundred million dollar 
losses for the airlines. The disruptions 
spread beyond national boundaries 
when Canadian and European con- 
trollers began boycotting U.S. flights. 
Despite the dismissal notices and 
heavy fines, it was hard to imagine 
how the FAA could leave air traffic in 

the hands of supervisors and inex- 
perienced military controllers for 
much longer. 

At that point the controllers held 
some potential advantages. First of all 
their demand for better working 
conditions, which would have made 
flights safer, should have naturally 
evoked public support. Second, with- 
holding the technical skills necessary 
to do the job gave the air controllers 
the real possibility of stopping a 
significant amount of air traffic. 
Third, many other unions (postal 
workers, pilots) had been negotiating 
new contracts in the same period. 
Coordinated strikes or job actions 
could have enhanced their respective 
bargaining power. Fourth, the brief 
but impressive solidarity on the part 
of Canadian and European controllers 
revealed an international dimension - 
one which could have been extremely 
effective had it been explored. 


On the national level, support from 
other unions was slow in coming. 
AFL-CIO leaders had to have a 
meeting before even suggesting that 
union members boycott air travel. 
"Socialist" William Winpisinger 
president of the powerful Interna- 
tional Association of Machinists (with 
thousands of airport workers as 
members), lived up to his nickname 
"Wimpy" by whining to the press 
that he was so angry he could scream. 
Indeed, other airport unions res- 
pected the picket lines only on a few 

PATCO was partly to blame here. 
For one thing, during its 13 year 
existence PATCO has seldom honored 
otherunions' picket lines. For another, 
they foresaw the heavy-handed res- 
ponse of Reagan and the FAA in a 
fifty page strike planning bulletin, 
published well before the strike, 
detailing what to expect — court 
orders, firings and arrests. Even so, 
PATCO did not ask for support from 
other unions until they were four days 



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the personalized concept of En- 
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personalized operator comfort, the 
system saves energy and dis- 
sipates electronic equipment heat. 
Other features of this personalized 
environment include adjustable 
height and angle for deck and key- 
board platform, personal storage 
and individualized lighting. 

into the strike. 

True, many members of other 
unions did join picket lines during the 
peak of the strike, and this was 
probably the most significant support 
from U.S. labor organizations. But 
here again, the effort was only 
symbolic, aimed more at demon- 
strating moral support than actually 
stopping business at airports. 


More concrete support came from 
foreign air traffic controllers. Mem- 
bers of the Canadian Air Traffic 
Controllers Association effectively 
stopped 75% of the flights between 
the U.S. and Europe for two days. The 
Canadian controllers, who for safety 
reasons refused to handle flights 
going through U.S. air space, gave up 
their boycott when union officials and 
the Canadian government agreed to 
set up a fact finding committee on the 
safety of the air traffic control system 
in the U.S. Later, when the FAA 
invited the Canadian union to tour 
U.S. facilities, rank and file members 
were barred from the trip. 

French and Portuguese controllers 
also boycotted U.S. flights early in the 
strike. The French action was spor- 

adic and short-lived. The major 
French unions refused to handle any 
flights from the U.S. Apparently, the 
boycott was called off after the union 
leaders met with France's Minister of 
Transportation, a Communist Party 

The International Federation of Air 
Traffic Controllers sent a protest 
telegram to Reagan, but advised air 
controllers in 61 nations not to join the 
boycotts going on elsewhere until a 
resolution supporting PATCO was 
drawn up at an international meeting. 
When they finally did meet, no such 
resolution was made. 


Throughout the strike the FAA has 
been able to keep the control towers 
open. Many flights were delayed or 
cancelled during August, but by the 
fifth week of the strike air traffic was at 
75% of its normal level and most 
airlines were able to publish flight 
schedules. To be sure, the FAA has 
incurred large losses from the strike, 
but, in the long run, it will try to use 
the strike/firings to reduce labor costs 
and revamp the air traffic control 



Over the next 21 months the FAA 
plans to train only 6500 new con- 
trollers to replace the 13,000 who 
were fired. Through a combination of 
upgrading people already working for 
the FAA, calling back retirees, and 
eliminating 1000 controller positions 
by closing down 60 low volume 
towers, the government will replace 
only half of the fired controllers. They 
may also be counting on many 
striking controllers coming back 
(under discipline, of course) to their 
old jobs now that the union has been* 
de-certified. Plans to install a new 
computer system over the next dec- 
ade (AERA — Automated En Route 
Air Traffic Control) will further re- 
duce the number of posts available. 
The new air traffic controllers, whom 
the government hopes to have trained 
in two years, will probably receive 
lower wages if they remain unorgan- 



Beyond the initial chaos, which cost 
up to $300 million a day, the strike 
may enable a partial "shake-out" of 
the industry. The airline industry has 
become highly competitive since it 
underwent "deregulation" in 1978. 
Prior to that time the Civil Aero- 
nautics Board (CAB) granted access 
to air routes and set prices. In 1978 
the CAB introduced the first phase of 
deregulation, relaxing price and route 
controls. They had hoped this would 
increase competition, lower air fares 
and revitalize the system. While 
competition did increase, this merely 
made a bad situation worse for the 
largest commercial airlines. Smaller 
airlines, like NY Air, with non- 
unionized pilots and flight staff and 


" Friends . . ." 



more modern, efficient fleets, en- 
croached on routes that were once the 
domain of the larger companies. 
Mergers and diversification (e.g. Pan 
Am/National, Hughes Airwest/Re- 
public, Texas International/Continen- 
tal, have resulted from the substantial 
losses suffered by many airlines in the 
past two years. 

In response to the strike, the CAB 
has restricted commercial air traffic to 
75% of normal. This will allow the 
larger airlines to purge their fleets of 
older, less efficient planes and reduce 
their staffs without any impact on 
their ability to compete. With less 
flights, each flight will carry more 
passengers, and hence increases com- 
pany revenues. Many airlines have 
cut prices to counteract the wide- 
spread "fear of flying" as a result of 
the strike. (In August, 100,000 to 
150,000 fewer passengers flew than 

Some of the smaller airlines were 
unable to withstand the drop in 
revenues caused by the strike. The 
routes most affected by the emer- 
gency regulations are short hops, 
where the smaller companies norm- 
ally have a competitive edge. At least 
two smaller companies, both "up- 
starts" — companies that enter the 
industry by horning in on a larger 
company's routes and luring cus- 
tomers away with lower fares — have 
gone under in the past two months, 
due to at least partially to the PATCO 


After the initial adjustment period, 
which has temporarily brought lower 
fares, air travel costs are likely to rise 
again. As during the 1974 oil embargo, 
the reintroduction of controls and 
lessening of competition will allow the 
larger airlines to rake in large profits. 
Investors are already bidding up the 
stock prices of certain strong airlines 
like Delta. 

But this is likely to be only 

temporary as the problems (e.g. 
rising fuel costs) of the airline 
industry still exist. Likewise the FAA 
has "solved" its labor problem only 
in the short run. Without improve- 
ments in working conditions, PATCO 
members' replacements are not apt to 
be any more satisfied with their jobs. 
And, it's still not clear that the 
government's grandiose plan to re- 
build the ATC system will work. In 
October, delays and cancellations 
were triple that of September, when 
the situation at the airports seemed to 
be getting less chaotic. 


The PATCO strike was a huge 
defeat for organized labor. Thirteen 
thousand people have lost their jobs 
and the National Labor Relations 
Board has decertified the union for 
staging an illegal strike. This sorry 
situation can be taken as an indict- 
ment of unions as a whole. 

No longer merely workers' organ- 
izations, the unions now serve a 
complex function of mediating and 
controlling conflicts between labor 
and capital. They offer many services 
to employers such as ensuring labor 
peace for the duration of the contract. 
This function generates a separate 
stratum, namely the labor bureau- 
cracy who, as the "middlemen," 
must constantly juggle the conflicting 
interests of the rank and file on the 
one hand and employers and politi- 
cians on the other. If they do not 
balance these conflicting interests 
successfully their usefulness to cap- 
ital becomes tenuous. Their existence 
is not wholly dependent on the 
largesse of capitalists, but in periods 
of recession the ruling class may 
simply try to dump certain labor 
functionaries in order to adopt a more 
repressive approach. This is clearly 
the intention of the Reagan adminis- 
tration in its handling of the PATCO 
strike and its successful effort to 
decertify the union. 

PATCO is, of course, planning to 



appeal the decision. The FAA has 
already announced that it will 
"appeal the appeal" if it has to. This 
will take months. Many members will 
be forced to seek work elsewhere. 
Those still walking the picket line will 
not be consulted on decisions vitally 
affecting their lives. The outcome will 
become another precedent to be used 
against workers in a future strike. 

The total failure of the air con- 
trollers strike is in many ways due to 

the inherent sectionalism of the 
traditional trade union approach. 
There was a surprisingly large poten- 
tial for solidarity in this strike. Instead 
of encouraging this potential PATCO 
officials relied on the wisdom of the 
courts and on withholding only their 
members labor. What could have 
been a successful strike, more, the 
beginning of a movement based on 
solidarity, will become merely another 
statistic of labor history. 



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Hark the K-Mart angels sing 
Price tags here on everything 
Don't think twice, the cashier smiled 

Debt and credit reconciled. 

From Bart holes consumers rise 
Cashing in on Christmas buys 
Now advertisements proclaim 
Christmas joy is here again. 


Hark the K-Mart angels 
Now commodities are ki 
Counting out how mucH 
To see a smile on Chrisi 

Angry now the shopper; 
Black smoke billows in 1 
Stores and gifts are up 
Christmas joy is here af 


Joy to the world 

The time has come 

Let earth receive all kings! 

Let worthless bosses of all types 

Find rest with worms and parasites 

Six feet below the ground 

Six feet below the ground 

Six feet, six feet 

Below the ground. 

They rule the world 

With fear and hate 

And take what we create! 

The time has come to celebrate 

It's them we're going to relocate 

Six feet below the ground 

Six feet below the ground 

Six feet, six feet 

Below the ground! 




s day 





Muzak we have heard on high 
Sweetly singing in the store 
And the shoppers in reply 
Fill their bags with goods galore. 

Musical Manipulation 
Musical Manipulation 

Buyers why this shopping spree? 
What brings on this attitude? 
Hidden in the symphony 
Messages to change your mood. 

Musical Manipulation 
Musical Manipulation 



God rest ye old society 
The cause of our dismay 
No longer will we work for you 
Nor sell our lives away 
Your priest and boss and bureaucrat 
We'll nevermore obey 
Uprising in anger and joy 
anger and joy 
Uprising in anger and joy 

We're done with rite and sacrament, 
Religious holidays 
For now we choose to celebrate 
Without worship or praise 
Your church and mosque and synagogue 
Are only in our way 
Uprising in anger and joy 
anger and joy 
Uprising in anger and joy 




what I am thinking is 

how I will work all the day 

and half the night here 

go to the gym 

and go home to bed 

only to get up 

in the morning 

and start over the same 

without any respite 

not even a poem to read 

before I fall to sleep 

not even one 


because I will not have the energy p j 

to even believe in lust 

and there is no question 
of feeling love 

even if you were here 

with your smooth limbs 

tucking yourself into the holes 

of my body 

I would not know how 

to react 

for I have been gutted out 

like a burning house 

by another 

empty job 


Mark Hensley 


It Reached 





Five Weeks At PacTel 


I hadn't really ever intended to 
work, for the phone company, really I 
hadn't. The Employment Develop- 
ment Department sent me on an 
interview and when I got there I found 
out it was the phone company. Having 
spent a great deal of time and energy 
getting to the interview, I decided to 
go through with it, and take the 
battery of tests being given. There 
were spelling and grammar tests, 
matching and logic tests, and arith- 
metic tests, and of course the oblig- 

atory typing test. After the typing test 
the first funny thing happened. They 
wouldn't tell me how fast I typed, or 
for that matter, how I scored on any of 
the other tests. That's classified 
information, I was informed. Right, 
I'm sure that the FBI is dying to know 
how fast I type. 

Two months passed, and I forgot 
about the phone company. I found a 
nice little off-the-books job which 
allowed me to collect unemployment. 
One gray June morning the phone 



rang at 8:00 a.m. sharp. It was the 
phone company calling me. A job was 
available, if I wanted it. I considered. 
My unemployment was about to run 
out, and I couldn't live off the income 
from my part-time, off-the-books job. 
So I accepted the offer and told them I 
would start in two weeks. 

I decided to start off right by calling 
in sick the very first day (I actually 
had a very good reason). They 
weren't real pleased about that, and I 
almost got myself fired before even 
starting. They wanted to know why I 
couldn't come in. This was to become 
a recurrent theme, supervisors always 
wanting to know why. 

The next day, a Thursday, I arrived 
at least twenty minutes early, and 
went to look for Wilma, my snooper- 
visor. She impressed upon me the 
importance of being on time for work, 
everyday, and never being absent, 
ever, ever, ever. I was amazed but not 
impressed. I would later find out just 
how serious this issue of attendance 
and tardiness was for phone company 

She took me over to "my desk," 
noting that Jane, one of the other 
secretaries on the floor, arrived about 
six minutes after 8:00. She wrote it 
down on a piece of paper to be filed 
somewhere with nasty red pen marks 
all over it. She introduced me to Bill, a 
temporary worker who would be 
training me to replace him. Then she 
introduced me to about fifty people, 
all of whose names I forgot instantly. I 
noticed that almost every clerical 
worker to whom I was introduced was 
either temporary or had just been 
hired yesterday or last week. Nobody 
knew what they were doing. Some 
so-called temporary workers had been 
there eight months or more. 

Then she left with Bill. Bill had long 
hair and a scroungy beard and 
raggedy blue jeans. I was a little 
surprised to see him in this attire. In 
fact, dress style fluctuated wildly, 
from jeans, sweatpants and T-shirts 
to three piece suits and thigh-slit 

skirts and plunging necklines; from 
punk haircuts (but not colors — no 
blue or green hair here) to crewcuts 
and shags and John Travolta cuts. 

Bill offered to buy me a cup of 
coffee and I learned that employees 
were expected to pay twenty five 
cents per cup of lukewarm, weak 
instant coffee with powdered "non- 
dairy creamer." This on the honor 
system, of course. There were signs 
everywhere urging people to join the 
Caffeine Club — seven dollars per 
month for unlimited coffee drinking 
privileges. I remarked to Bill that I 
was surprised that a company the size 
of AT&T was unable to provide free 
coffee for employees, but he pointed 
out that they did not get that way by 
providing employees with the little 
niceties of life. 

We went downstairs to the em- 
ployees' cafeteria — chillingly air 
conditioned on a damp, foggy, sum- 
mer day — and talked for two hours 
about who to trust (no one) and how to 
break while working. Bill told me the 
best way to avoid being harassed by 
Wilma was to stay out of the office ; no 
one would ever ask where I was and I 
would never be missed. 

Back upstairs, Wilma gave me a 
key to the supply cabinet. It was sort 
of like carte blanche to steal — a 
veritable gold mine of pens, papers, 
staplers, scissors, stamp pads, file 
folders, stacking baskets, graph pa- 
per, tracing paper, bond paper, etc. I 
lost no time in taking six pens and two 
note pads and continued to take a 
little something as a reward to myself 
for getting through each working day. 

There actually was no work for me 
to do, so Bill suggested I just look 
busy when Wilma came around, 
which she did about every half hour. 
She always asked if I was learning 
1 'everything' ' and if I liked the job. She 
asked me at least three times the first 
day, and several times each day 
thereafter. At first I tried to say that I 
loved the job, I adored filing, and 
couldn't wait to answer the phone, 



but I finally decided this was just 
another subtle form of harassment. I 
eventually told her that I was a 
creative person, and there were very 
few outlets for creativity in this type 
of work, but it did keep the rent paid. 
She wrote this all down in her ever- 
present book of nasty notes about 
workers but left me alone after that, 
at least on the issue of employee 

Bill was absent the next day, 
Friday. I didn't feel comfortable 

enough with Wilma to ask her what I 
was supposed to be doing, so I passed 
a most pleasant day writing letters, 
making phone calls, compiling a list of 
office supplies that could be removed 
from the supply cabinet, and playing 
with the typewriter. Wilma inter- 
rupted me twice via the telephone, 
insisting that I meet with her im- 
mediately to answer very important 
questions. The first question was 
what was my middle initial. The 
second question involved the office 



Christmas party (this was July). 
Should we have it the 23rd or the 
24th, should it be catered, should it be 
all day, or just in the afternoon — yes, 
my input into these important de- 
cisions was needed immediately. I 
answered her questions with the 

careful consideration I thought they 
deserved and raced back to my desk 
where I could sit blissfully staring out 
the permaseal windows at other 
permaseal windows across the street. 

The following Thursday I was to 
report to Oakland for "induction" 
and, indeed, it was a lot like being 
drafted. It was an intensive 
eight hour orientation process for 
twelve new recruits. We were shown 
numerous films on such diverse sub- 
jects as how stealing even one pen or 
paper clip could lead to the downfall 
of AT&T and how the Bell System got 
to be the way it is. We filled out a 
dozen forms for health insurance, life 
insurance, holiday pay, employee 
rules and regulations, credit unions, 
savings plans, on and on and on. 
During the discussion of benefits and 
vacation/sick days I learned that 
there are in fact no sick days at AT&T 
ever, ever. Not after six months or ten 
years. I would eventually hear much 
more about this subject than I cared to 
know, but for now I understood that if 
I was absent I wasn't going to be paid 
for it. We were told that our 
attendance wasn't expected to be 
perfect, just very good. "Very good 
attendance" was not elaborated on. 
Later, I learned that it meant never 
being absent during the first twelve 
months of employment, and not more 
than two days during any subsequent 
years, should one remain with the 
company that long. These rules 
applied only to non-management. 
Supervisors, managers, and execu- 
tives could be absent as often as they 
wished. Unfortunately for non- 
management, they seemed to be in all 
the time. 

After induction, I decided I did not 

want to go in on the next day, Friday, 
because it was my birthday. I sus- 
pected it was foolhardy to take a day 
off so soon into my employment at 
the phone company, but I felt very 
strongly about not working on what 
should be a day of pleasure and good 
times. So I called in "sick" from my 
friend's house at about eight in the 
morning. Wilma wanted to know what 
was wrong with me. I told her that I 
had had a rough night and hung up. 
Around two hours later, I went back to 
my own apartment, and as I walked in 
the door the phone was ringing. It 
was, of course, Wilma. She wanted to 
read me the rules and regulations 
about being absent. "Sure, go a- 
head" I said, and she proceeded to 
read a long involved document which 
said I had better not plan on being 
absent again in the near future (the 
next twelve months). "Fine, can I go 
back to sleep now?" She apologized 
for waking me up, and I took a shower 
and went to play. 

The next Monday I learned that I 
was going to be working for a new set 
of people. But first, would I do some 
xeroxing for Mr. Smith? It turned out 
to be something like a thousand pages 
of xeroxing, obviously more than I 
could churn out myself in the course 
of a working day — not to mention the 
danger of exposing oneself to a xerox 
machine all day. I did some and sent 
the rest to the multiple copying 
service downstairs. 

Then I was sent over to my new 
desk. In the middle of the day, Wilma 
called me over to tell me the rules and 
regulations regarding employee ab- 
sence again. Actually, I still remem- 
bered them from Friday, but I didn't 
say anything. 

On Tuesday, Wilma came over to 
me in the morning, and asked why I 
was out on Friday. I told her that I was 
sick. What, she wanted to know, 
exactly was wrong with me. I told her 
that I was too sick to come to work. 
She said she needed to know exactly 
what was wrong with me. I told her 



again I had simply been too ill to come 
in. She said she needed to know what 
illness I had. I asked her why. She 
said it was because the company was 
concerned about my health and well- 
being. I told her that while I found 
that really hard to believe, she could 
tell them I was feeling fine now, and 
probably wouldn't experience a re- 
lapse. She asked me if I was going to 
tell her what was wrong with me, and 
I said no, I wasn't going to tell her, 
and I didn't see why I needed to 
describe my illness. She wrote all this 
down. Later that day, she called me 
over to her again. Mr. Smith had told 
her that I refused to do some work for 
him. That, I said, is an out and out lie, 
and why didn't he say something to 
me about it? Well, she said, Mr. 
Smith says you refused, and that is 
insubordination and grounds for dis- 
missal. I told her then and there that 
if she wanted to fire me, that was fine, 
but she had better find a legitimate 

reason and not some trumped up 
excuse, or I would bring them to 
court. She wrote it all down, and 
slipped it, I'm sure, into my ever 
growing file. 

Wednesday she came over to me 
with some papers she wanted me to 
sign. They said in effect that I refused 
to tell her why I was ill and that I knew 
it was a naughty thing to do. This was 
my first insubordination report, and 
there would be many more. "I'm not 
signing this," I told her. "You're 
refusing to sign it?" "I really wish 
you'd stop using that word," I 
answered and launched into a five 
minute monologue on corporate poli- 
tics, forced subjugation and employee 
alienation. I don't think she under- 
stood a word I said, but she wrote it 
all down, and marked in red on my 
insubordination report that I had 
refused to sign it. As revenge, I stole 
a dozen boxes of pens, a typewriter 
element, and a stapler. 

^vq.v#vvvvit*q.vv + vvvq.*i}VVvvvvvvvvj}Qvvvvvvvvvvvvvv*Vj 


Sleek and sexy, the Executive- 
ly Seeking Missile contains a tiny hom- 
J ing device that allows it to detect 
J egocillius, a chemical present in the 

* brains of executives everywhere. The 

* E-S Missile system alone could rid the 

* world of thousands of useless people. 



On Thursday, she came over to me 
and started in about being absent and 
tardy again. I told her point-blank that 
I was tired of her harassing me about 
this — that I understood it the first 
five times, and it wasn't necessary to 
explain it to me everyday. I later 
found out that she harangued other 
employees in an identical fashion. She 
continued to do it despite my insis- 
tence that I really did understand. 

Later that day, she came over to me 
with a sealed envelope with my name 
written on it. I was certain they were 
my dismissal papers. I was rather 
surprised to find it was my paycheck. 
I had become so thoroughly caught up 
in the drama of it that I had actually 
forgotten they were going to pay me. I 
noticed that the payroll office had me 
down for the wrong number of 
exemptions, so I asked Wilma for 
payroll's telephone number so I could 
straighten it out. She asked me what 
the problem was, and told me that she 
would take care of it for me. I said I 
thought I could handle it. I was 
informed that I would not be allowed 
to do so, because what would happen 
if everybody wanted to call payroll? I 
couldn't possibly imagine, I told her. 
She assured me it would be utter 
chaos, and I told her I was tired of 
being treated like a kindergarten 
child. She told me she was only there 
to help me, and to always bring all my 
problems to her. 

On Friday, I saw Wilma heading 
my way again, with what seemed at 
first to be good news — she was 
taking a two week vacation. At first I 
was delighted to hear this, but her 
replacement was so horrible, that I 
actually began to miss her! 

I was even relieved when Wilma 
came back in the middle of August. 
The first thing I did was ask her, over 
three weeks in advance, if I would be 
able to take off Tuesday afternoons to 
attend a college course. I was willing 
to make up the time. She said she 
would have to consult her supervisor. 

I told her I needed to know the next 

Near the end of the following 
day, I asked her if she had spoken to 
her supervisor about 'my Tuesday 
afternoons.' What Tuesday after- 
noons? she asked. For school. School? 
My college course. College course? 
Wilma, I talked to you about this for 
twenty minutes yesterday. She said 
she didn't remember it at all. I 
patiently explained it to her again, 
wrote it down, and told her I really 
needed to know the next day. 

The next day, as closing time drew 
near, she still hadn't spoken to me 
about it, so I went to talk to her. I 
asked if she had spoken to her 
supervisor about my class. Yes, she 
said. And? She said she'd tell me 
Monday. I told her a simple yes or no 
would do. Yes or no, she answered. 
Wilma! That is not a sufficient 
answer. I will discuss it with you 
Monday. I have to know today, I told 
her. Finally she said she'd talk to me 
at 4 p.m. At 4 p.m. she came over to 
my desk, clutching a file. Your 
attitude has not been good, she said. 
Wilma, all I want to know is whether I 
will be able to take the time off to 
attend my class. Special privileges, 
she said, are only to be granted to 
people with perfect records. Your 
attendance has not been good. Wilma 
I was absent once! I do all my work 
quickly and efficiently. Are you 
saying I can't take my class? We don't 
like your attitude, she said. What 
you don't like, I said, is that I'm really 
efficient but I don't love the company, 
and don't pretend to, and there's no 
legitimate way you can fire me. She 
wrote all this down. 

I called her supervisor, and said I 
wanted to speak to her about my 
class, since I assumed it was she who 
had denied me permission. Fine, she 
said. Shall we invite Wilma too? Well, 
I said, if you're giving me a choice, I'd 
just as soon not have her there. I 
really think we should invite her, 




, t t\n9 

Where's my oatmeal? ^°on w& > n 

at Bof A 

Barbara said. I'd really rather not. I'd 
rather just talk to you. Well, Barbara 
said, let's invite her, and then if you 
still want to talk to me alone, we can 
arrange it. Some choice! 

As it turned out, I needed to take 
Monday off. I knew that I couldn't 
take it off without getting myself 
fired, and that I probably wouldn't be 
able to get unemployment due to my 
'excessive absences.' So I called in 
and quit. Fine, said Wilma. We'll be 
holding your paycheck for two weeks. 
Send it to me right away, I said, or I 
will come down there and get it. I'll 
call you back, she said. She called 
back and said I could have my 
paycheck as soon as it came out. I 
thanked her and hung up. A half hour 
later she called back. Why are you 

quitting, she wanted to know. Why do 
you want to know? I asked, knowing 
full well why she wanted to know. I 
have to fill out a form. Well, I said, 
why don't you write down that I hated 
the fucking place? I could hear her 
wince over the phone and I hung up 
on her. Fifteen minutes later she 
called me back again. Now what, 
Wilma? We need your ID card. I told 
her I lost it. She didn't believe it, but 
couldn't argue. I later learned, in a 
final stroke of irony, that I had been 
banned from entering the building, 
that my name had been given to the 
security guards downstairs, and that, 
if caught entering the building I was 
to be escorted out bodily. 

— By Nomda Plume 








Keep On Calling! 

A legal researcher's friends phone 
her "free" on her employer's WATS 
line. A bookkeeper starts each work- 
ing day by dialing for his horoscope. 
An accountant calls Florida during his 
lunch hour. 

"It's simply the old routine of dial 
nine and dial the world," said Harry 
Newton, a telecommunications con- 
sultant and president of Telecom 
Library in New York. 

One of the most rampant forms of 
abuse involves the more than 20 
Dial-It services, such as Dial-a-Sport, 
Dial-a- Joke , Dial- Your-Horoscope . 
During 1980, the New York Telephone 
Company handled 299 million calls in 
the New York City area alone on such 
services. Significantly, two-thirds of 
those calls were made between 9 
A.M. and 5 P.M. 

Another reason for phone abuse is 
tied to what has been called the 
WATS myth, which holds that calls 
made on Wide Area Telephone Ser- 
vice lines are free, once a flat rate is 
paid by the company. This was once 
true, but today WATS calls are billed 
exactly like regular interstate toll 
calls, then discounted 20 percent to 30 
percent. "I half knew WATS wasn't 

free," said one woman who made 
several long-distance calls a week on 
her company WATS line, "but I just 
chose not to find out. ' ' 

"The concern is not so much with 
the cost of a phone call, ' ' said William 
L. Hegge, telecommunications ad- 
ministrator for Northwestern Mutual 
Life Insurance Company, "as with 
lost productivity." 

[As a result] more and more 
companies are investing in systematic 
approaches from computer software 
that does the detective work for them, 
to the less expensive rotary telephone 
lock and, somewhat newer, the Over- 
talk lock for pushbutton phones. 

The problem of phone abuse is 
costing American business $4 billion a 
year in lost work time and actual 
telephone charges. Telecom Library's 
president Harry Newton contends 
that the abuse and misuse of phones 
can account for 20-40% of a com- 
pany's phone bill. 

Kevin V. Shannon, telecommun- 
ications project analyst at Corning 
Glass Works, estimates that 15-30% 
of his company's bill could be 
attributed to phone abuse. 

-N. Y. Times 10/12/81 



OOPS! Notes on an Unnatural Disaster 

' 'People began leaving with the first smell of gas, 
although the first announcement on the loudspeaker 
said it wasn 't necessary. Half of the people were out 
even before they called the evacuation. " (an Embarca- 
dero Center lawyer quoted in S.F. Chronicle 8/26/81). 

While common sense prevailed among thousands of 
self -evacuating office workers, PG&E was busy trying 
to "minimize inconvenience to customers." Hence the 
incredible delay in shutting off the leak (over two 
hours!). Instead of shutting off a central gas main, 
PG&E decided to search out and shut five localized 
valves so "business as usual" could continue at as 
many downtown establishments as possible. 

Meanwhile PCB-laden gas was poisoning 40,000 + 
workers, a fact known to PG&E executives well before 
it was announced to the public . In February PG&E 
found that PCB levels were high on or near the 
ruptured gas main. 

The response of authority to disaster is nearly always 
the same — "Keep Working!" In this case manage- 
ment security personnel in several buildings dutifully 
advised workers to stay on the job, even while 
thousands were hurriedly leaving. Like PG&E many 
managers were mostly concerned with maintaining an 
orderly work process. Similarly in the huge Tishman 
building fire in mid- June (apparently started by a 
rebellious employee trying to bum up Wells Fargo's 
computer records) security advised the 2,000 people in 
the building to stay where they were, or to move a few 
floors down. They hoped to maintain "normalcy" on as 
many floors as possible in order to keep the information 
flowing and the capital circulating. 

Despite the horrible reality of PCB-laden gas leaks, 
many people are taking it in stride, shrugging it off as 
some kind of natural disaster. But there was nothing 
"natural" about this one nor can it be dismissed as an 
honest mistake. It was a consequence of the priorities 
that rule this city and the rest of the world: 

• Priorities of contractors and realtors who are 
throwing caution to the wind in the rush to build 
ever-more office buildings. 

• Priorities of PG&E to constantly niinimize the extent 
of public danger resulting from toxic or radioactive 
exposure in order to protect their monopoly on the 
energy grid and avoid clean-up costs. 

• Priorities of office management in keeping people on 
the job at all costs to maintain productivity and 
output levels. 

These priorities are based on a system where the 
search for money and profits underlies all important 
decisions that affect our lives. 

In fact, we are forced to make money a central 
concern of our daily lives just to survive — first selling 
our working time and then using the money to get what 
we need. With so much of our time taken up by the 
money system, it seems we have little time to think 
about the important decisions that confront society. 
And yet by allowing these decisions to be made by the 
"authorities," we contribute to the continuation of our 
own victimization. 

There is not much we can do about this particular 
disaster except demonstrate our anger. But we can 
begin to challenge the relationships of hierarchy and 
authority around us and by doing so subvert the 
prioirties that govern society today. For those of us who 
work in offices, we can begin by asking some basic 
questions: At what point are conditions hazardous 
enough to take action? How can office workers exert 
control over their working conditions? How can people 
begin to resist their subjection to the priorities of the 
money economy? 

dot* 9 





Dissident Office Workers 

c/o Processed World 

55 Sutter St. #829 

San Francisco, CA. 94104 




PCB stands for Poly Chlorinated Biphenols. PCB was originally used as an industrial 
strength lubricant and cleanser in gas compressors. Batches of PCB's with the same chlorine 
content may vary in composition and toxicity even when produced by the same manufacturer. 
Director of Public Health Mervyn Silverman likened the exposure to PCB's to medical x-rays. 
Both radiation and PCB's accumulate in the body. 

Congress banned further production of PCB's in 1979. Companies have been given until 
1984 to remove PCB from existing equipment and products. "The new Toxic Substances 
Control Act (TSCA), Public law 94-469, specifically prohibits production of PCB's within the 
U.S., regulates disposal of materials contaminated by PCB's, and restricts the use of any such 
materials already in service." 

"Some of the nonspecific effects on health that may be attributed to low-level exposure to 
PCB's are abnormal fatigue, abdominal pain, numbness of limbs, swelling of joints, chronic 
cough, menstrual irregularity, and headache. Abnormal tooth development, hyperpigmen- 
tation, and low weight in newborn children also may be complications resulting from PCB 

In addition, there have been suggestions of increased incidence of cancer in some of the 
Japanese who were exposed to PCB through contamination of cooking oil. 
















Chills & Drills From Toxic Spills 

Tension grips hundreds of grade- 
school children as police officers in 
gas masks tersely order them out of 
their classrooms and into the streets. 
The students, marching two by two, 
are escorted by the police past rows of 
nearly identical suburban tract 
homes. Unwittingly, the cops are 
leading the children directly toward a 
noxious cloud of acids and heavy 
metals — the very same cloud that the 
cops thought they were evacuating 
the children away from.f 

The poisonous cloud's origins? A 
toxic waste transport truck sprung a 
leak shortly after it pulled away from 
a Medfly checkpoint on a nearby 
freeway — an inspection checkpoint 
to confiscate fruit and vegetables in 
an attempt to control the spread of the 
feared Medfly. 

Covering the adjacent 1,300 square 
miles to this accident is a three-county 
quarantined zone undergoing aerial 
spraying of the poisonous pesticide 
Malathion. Well over a million people 

live and work beneath regular bom- 
bardments from nightly helicopter 
sorties. On October 22, one suburban 
Fremont family had the misfortune of 
being bombarded by a helicopter 
itself when it crashed into their house 
in dense fog. 

At the outset, public outrage over 
aerial spraying of Malathion was met 
with bland assurances by government 
officials that everything would be OK. 
Simultaneously, TV newscasters 
urged people to stay indoors, close 
windows and doors, and to contact 
physicians and/or hospitals if they 
experienced any direct contact with 
Malathion. The grim specter of lying 
public officials juxtaposed to the 
massive poisoning of the population 
has led to some angry responses 
(several helicopters have been shot at 
as they sprayed rural valleys; and 
widespread bitterness. Thousands of 
dead fish in the south Bay provide a 

t As reported on the KPIX-TV 6 p.m. 
News, September 8, 1981. 

Hey, we've only been gassed six times in the 
last year, and I feel great!!— Burp!! 



daily reminder of the ongoing poi- 

The preceding examples are but 
two among many Instances of toxic 
exposure in this state during the past 
several months. In the first six 
months of 1981 there were 177 toxic 
chemical spills in the state of Califor- 
nia, nearly as many as occurred in all 
of 1980. Thousands of Bay Area 
residents have been forced to evacu- 
ate their homes and workplaces at 
least three times: 

• August 22, 1981: 70,000 are evacu- 
ated when a noxious cloud of silicon 
tetrachloride leaks from a South San 
Francisco chemical company's stor- 
age yard. 

• August 25, 1981: 30,000 are evacu- 
ated when a gas main is punctured by 
a construction crew in SF's Financial 
District. The natural gas is found to 
contain the carcinogenic substance 

• September 8, 1981: 4,000 are 
evacuated when a cloud of acids and 
heavy metals leaks from a toxic waste 
transport truck near Pleasanton, a 
Bay Area suburb. 

The most dramatically reported 
invasion of toxic chemicals into our 
lives was the August 25 leak of 
natural gas and PCB in San Francisco 
(for more details, see "Oops! Notes 
on an Unnatural Disaster," in this 

For three days after the accident, 
clean-up crews attempted to remove 
the oily traces of highly toxic PCB that 
had accumulated on downtown side- 
walks, shrubs, and office buildings. 
Since the area was not tested for 
safety and compliance after the 
clean-up, we will never know if the 
Financial District is free of PCB. The 
only response from the City govern- 
ment was Supervisor Nancy Walker's 
proposal for hearings on an "effec- 
tive" evacuation plan for future 

But unnerving incidents such as 
these aren't simply random accidents 

«PCB isloo 



...don't we get PCB 
when we use our gas 




that can be "handled" by evacuating 
the exposed population. They in- 
creasingly make up the regular rou- 
tine of living in the Bay Area. 
Evacuation plans only to serve to 
normalize a thoroughly unnatural 
social problem- Furthermore, they 
tend to obscure the underlying cause 
of toxic accidents: namely, such 
accidents are an unavoidable com- 
ponent of using ever increasing 
quantities of toxic substances. 

Even where there is no spectacular 
accident to attract our attention, the 
problems persist. For instance, an 
alarming increase in the incidence of 
cancer has been reported in the 
predominantly working-class neigh- 
borhoods of northern Contra Costa 
county, site of the massive Chevron 
oil refineries and related industries. 
Residents in that area currently have 
the highest reported cancer rate in the 
nation, 40% above average. 

There are 77 hazardous waste 
dump sites surrounding that same 
area. Sixty sites have simply been 
abandoned, nine others in the city of 



Richmond qualify for money from 
Washington's recently enacted "Su- 
per Fund" (a $1.6 billion fund 
allocated by the Federal Gov't, to 
clean up abandoned toxic dumps — in 
effect, a massive subsidy to the oil/ 
chemical industries). 

The existence of a polluting indus- 
trial infrastructure, combined with 
the daily production, distribution and 
utilization of toxic chemicals, provide 

the ingredients for both quick disas- 
ters and gradual catastrophes. Forth- 
right action is needed to remove these 
substances from use as quickly and 
thoroughly as possible. Such action 
and change will not be forthcoming 
from the omnipresent bureaucracies 
of daily life... it is up to us. 

—By Mr. Wizard & Lucius Cabins 

Hate Your Job? 

Your unhappiness about your job 
has now reached alarming peaks, with 
the Bureau of Labor Statistics report- 
ing that as many as 24 million 
Americans — a full quarter of our 
work force — are dissatisfied with 
their work. 

The cost to employers runs into 
billions of dollars a year in absentee- 
ism, reduced output, poor workman- 
ship. The cost to our nation is 
incalculable, for this attitude is deeply 
eroding our ability to compete suc- 

cessfully in world markets. 

Why? Are you turned off by your 
working environment, supervision 
and company policies or the actual 
nature of the job you hold? Is the 
reason that you feel your job should 
be more than a way to pay your bills? 
Are we witnessing a fundamental 
change in the attitude of American 
men and women toward working 

— S.F. Chronicle 9/22/81 



on ice from SAN FRANCISCO 


i date SEPTEMBER 23, 1981 




In order to avoid having two reports filled out on E 

: the same client for staffing purposes, the partners should be 

using only those practice management reports which show them 
: as the manager, and ignore the partner reports. S 

'•llllllllll, ,,,,,,,, IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIUIIIIIHIIIIIIIIIIlllliliiHiim 1111111111111111 1 JT 



NO! NOOO! Not one more 
"Memo to Files"!! 


Help out your co-workers who have let their 
office discipline lag. Create a break in the old 
office routine with a stiff challenge that gets them 
back on the track with zest. 

Reason: A new task creates a first-day-on-the- 
job feeling. The challenge and the novelty forces 
the worker to concentrate harder than she or he 
does on routine duties. 

CREATIVE ACTION: Take a hint from the two 
supervisors below, who used special assignments to 
put workers in line. 

The slow-poke. For a worker who was starting 
to fall behind-a few minutes here, an hour or a 
day there-Judy Sanchez, an administrative assis- 
tant in Peoria, 111., found the special project 
approach helpful. 

IDEA IN ACTION: "I gave this worker a rush 
project to handle independently. The deadline was 
reachable but only by going all-out," Judy reports. 

Profit result: The employee really had to step 
on the gas to get the work done. And when he was 
finished, he realized he could work faster-and 
knew that his supervisor was aware of it. 

Judy followed this assignment with several 

others until the workers had mastered greater 
speed without such prompting from her. 

The chatterbox. Workers with this malady not 
only hold up their own tasks, but they prevent 
others from working steadily also. Bill Jerwyn, a 
Spokane supervisor, solved this problem recently 
with an- 

IDEA IN ACTION: "One worker with this bad 
habit had a lot of talent and ability. I bet that she 
had ambition, also. So I put her in charge of a group 
project with a deadline to meet. But, the group I gave 
her also had talkers in it, who held her up." 

Result: The more the others talked, the more 
frustrated this leader became. Finally, she told Bill 
she was worried that they would not meet the 
deadline. Laughing, Bill told her that he knew 
how she felt, and this opened the door for a heart- 
to-heart discussion of her own gab sessions. Then 
she and Bill redistributed the remaining work so 
that the deadline could be met. 

Payoff: The taste of her own medicine spurred 
this worker on to fulfill the supervisory potential 
she had. Until Bill had devised this way of showing 
her the damage her gab sessions did, she never 
understood why she had not progressed. 




1 'Training Institute for the Clerical Working-Class'" 


r n 

t 0: 

• Type Meaningless Letters 

• Manage Superfluous Records 

• Process Insignificant Words 

• Work Quietly and Obediently 

• Follow Arbitrary Rules and Regulations 

• Think of your own Ideas as Stupid and the Ideas 
of your Boss/Teacher as Better than your own 

• Think of "Profits" as Necessary and Important 
(Even when the Only thing you Know about 
"Profits" is that you Never Get Them) 

• Enjoy Selling your Life so that you can Buy 
Back the things you Need/Want to Live 

• Think Less and Work More 

Physical Layout Of 
The Plant 

This beautiful, shiny mini-skyscra- 
per has been carefully designed to 
simulate a real work environment. 
Sterile cement and metal decor will 
help you to feel more like a working 
cog in a machine than a human 

Report to your assigned classroom, 
where bright flourescent lights will 
soothe your mind as you follow 
instructions from your teacher/boss. 

A message from the director 

I'd like to welcome all you new and returning 
students with a few brief remarks. I realize you 
will be terribly bored learning how to type, do 
accounting, "manage" records, process words, 
and all the other repetitive, mindless tasks that 
are yours as the aspiring white-collar working 
class. But you must learn to look as busy and 
alert as possible, even when inside you want to 
scream at the monotony and meaninglessness of 
what you are being taught (or are already doing 
for a living) . It is only when you pretend to enjoy 
your misery that managers like me will promote 
you to better salaries and positions of power over 
other people. 

Don't let it worry you that the world economy 
is on the verge of a massive depression, or that 
the skills you are learning will soon be 
computerized (leaving you unemployed). As 
economic activity contracts, and recession turns 
into depression, don't ask yourself why this 
system demands austerity and hardship from 
average people like yourselves (while owners 
and managers like me continue to live in 
material comfort). Don't hold any illusions that 
you can take over by getting together with other 
students and people you work with, and create a 
new society without bureaucrats, managers, 
governments, or wage-labor. This school's 
curriculum has been carefully developed to 
prevent your imagination from exploring any 
ideas about a world without bosses and without 
long hours of boring work. If you learn nothing 
else here, you must learn not to think! 

Have a nice passive semester... Please! 

Scornfully Yours, Dr. Z. Rocks 

This is the story of Jack and the 
Beanstalk. Jack was your average, 
not-so-hard working clerk/typist. 
When he needed the money, he 
worked as a temporary in downtown 
San Francisco. 

One dreary Monday morning Jack 
was dispatched to Frunk & Strunk 
Commodities Brokerage to help on a 
special assignment. Frunk & Strunk 
were in a funk because the bean trade 
was not booming. They'd started 
buying bean 'futures' months ago but 
still hadn't cornered the market. And 
to top it all off, the telex had just 
reported record harvests in Mexico... 
naturally this put both Frunk and 
Strunk in a pretty foul mood. This in 
turn created ill winds in the F&S 
offices high over Market Street. Some 
have irresponsibly asserted that the ill 
winds had more to do with the beans 
than the news. 

Jack made his way downtown to the 
gleaming silver tower and the type- 

writer that would keep him busy for 
approximately 6.5 hours each day. 
The receptionist greeted him with a 
look of relief. "Now they won't make 
me do so much typing" she thought. 

"Hi, glad to meet you, where do I 

"Oh, Mr. Strunk will show you and 
explain your job" she said. 

"Explain my job?!?" thought Jack, 
"that can't take too long." 

Hye Strunk, a nervous 49-year-old 
Russian emigre' emerged from his 
glass booth, extending his hand and 
exhaling cigar smoke all over Jack. 
"Velcome aboard, Jack, ve're glad to 
haf you." He led Jack down the 
corridor to a desk in a partitioned 
cubicle. "Here is your berth — oops, I 
mean desk — ha, ha. You are goink to 
be assistant to bean specialist, Jim 
Gordon. Make yourself at home, 
coffee is there. Jim vill be here to 
explain duties in minute." 

As Hye Strunk disappeared down 



the hall, Jack yawned and glanced 
around the all-too-familiar landscape: 
metal walls painted a soothing insti- 
tutional beige, fluorescent lights, and 
empty bulletin boards so that he could 
personalize "his" space, and the 
inevitable typewriter and dictaphone. 
On the corner of his desk he noticed a 
small dish full of beans. He reached 
over and tried to pick one up. To his 
amazement, the beans were solidly 
glued into the dish. 

Jim Gordon appeared at his side. 
Pale and pudgy, conservatively 
dressed in a white shirt and black tie, 
Gordon extended a limp, sweaty hand 
to Jack and said: "Uh,.. um.., I., uh, 
am Jim, uh.. welcome aboard." 

"Well, glad to meet you Jim, I'm 
your new assistant, Jack." 

Gordon stared glassily into the 
distance over Jack's left shoulder. 
"Did Mr. Strunk explain our... uh... 

"Something about beans?" 

"Uh, yeah, um, that's... uh... 
right. Have you had any... uh... 
experience with... uh... beans?" 

"Only in the kitchen" grinned 
Jack, but Gordon didn't smile. He had 
long ago ceased to find anything 
amusing about beans. 

"Oh by the way, is that dish just an 
ornament?" asked Jack. 

"Oh... that." Gordon looked some- 
what disconcerted as he slowly re- 
plied. "When Frunk & Strunk started 
to get into uh... beans, the... uh... 
American Bean Association sent... 
uh.. um... 150 of those... uh... 
commemorative dishes to the com- 
pany. If you turn them over you can 
see that they were done for the... 
uh... Bicentennial." 

"I see" said Jack. He switched into 
his "automatic pilot" blandness to 
avoid taxing Gordon's limited com- 
municative abilities any further. Gor- 
don gave Jack a stack of papers with 
drafts of memos and reports that had 
been piling up for the six days that 
Gordon had been without a secretary. 

For the next three hours Jack typed 

steadily, trying to see through the 
glare of the fluorescent lights and the 
blurry vision caused by his continual 
yawning. Three cups of coffee had 
managed only to give him a stomach 
ache. "Maybe I should try speed?" 
thought Jack as he finished the fifth 
memo on the intimate details of 
drought and crop loss in outer 
Yogotopia and its impact on beans per 
can per case per factory in Runnah- 
weighshape, USA. 

"Typing this stuff is awful but I'd 
sure hate to have to write this 
gibberish. That would really be 
humiliating. ' ' 

Jack soon became one of the most 
productive typists Frunk & Strunk 
ever had. The days crawled by, one by 
one, with an absolute absence of 
variation in his routine. In the middle 
of his second week Jack came in, 
threw his jacket around the back of his 
chair as usual, and began reading the 
paper with his first morning coffee. 
Out of the corner of his eye, just as he 
turned to the sports pages, Jack 
caught a glimmer of color. Glancing 
over the top of the paper he noticed 
that one of the beans in his Bicenten- 
nial commemorative dish had 

Peering at the dish, he touched the 
green sprout and wondered how this 
was possible in the midst of all this 
metal and fluorescence. He went to 
the water cooler, filled a cup with 
water, and carefully dribbled a little 
of it into the bean dish. "Surely it will 
die, but what the hell?... I might as 
well as give it a chance." 

Every so often during the morning 
he looked at the sprout. It seemed to 
be getting larger before his very eyes. 
By the time he went to lunch it 
must've been at least eight inches 
tall. And when he returned from 
lunch, lo and behold the tiny sprout 
had grown to a full three feet! 

Jim Gordon came up with more 
bean work for Jack. When he saw the 
burgeoning stalk he started, and then 
hesitantly inquired ' 'Where didja get 



the... uh... plant?" 

"It just started growing. This 
morning it was a tiny sprout. . . I gave 
it a bit of water and boom! Amazing 
isn't it? It hasn't stopped yet! I've 
never seen anything like it, have 

"Uh... um... no... don't you., ah... 
think you should... uh.. throw it... 
um.. away?" 

"Why? I like the little devil, I'm 
keeping it." 

No sooner had Jack finished speak- 
ing when the stalk quivered and grew 
a full 12 inches right before their 
unbelieving eyes. 

Jack poured the remaining water 
into the dish, his astonishment grow- 
ing with the rapidly ascending stalk. 
Gordon turned away and pattered 
back to his cubicle, apparently decid- 
ing to ignore the whole episode. 

By the end of the day, the stalk had 
reached the ceiling. Its green leaves 
caressed the abstract crevices in the 
panels, as it avoided the fluorescent 
squares. The other people in the 
office didn't seem to notice anything, 
leaving Jack alone in his amazement 
and curiosity. He waited until most of 
the others had gone home. Then Jack 
absconded with several potted plants 
on the other side of the floor, and 
emptied the dirt into his garbagecan, 
making a sizable new home for his 

The next morning his desk was 
covered with plaster from the ceiling 
where the stalk had broken through to 
the next floor. He went up to the next 
floor to visit the top of his stalk. 
Leaping two stairs at a time, he burst 
into the office of Digital Stimulation 
Accountants (specializing in tax eva- 



1 hour of TV with breakfast 

4 hours on VDT at work 

45 minutes of Tele-shopping during lunchbreak 

4 hours on VDT at work 

1 hour dinner preparation — TV in background 

5 hours TV during and after dinner 

8V4 hours sleep 




t Slime 'Q' f 

Slime 'Q' is the first of a long 
line of recombinant DNA-based 
weapons systems. Originally dis- 
covered by Stanford University 
researchers, but discarded as 
"useless" when they found it to be 
non-carcinogenic, Slime 'Q' was 
created through a genetic alter- 
ation of velveeta cheese. Slime 'Q' 
has a voracious appetite for office 
decor (especially pastel colored 
objects and "Bank art") and will 
disrupt any bureaucracy to which it 
is introduced. 

sion and massage). The startled 
receptionist looked up as he briskly 
walked by her desk. "Excuse me sir, 
but can I help you?" 

"No thanks, I'm just here to see 
about modern horticulture and ac- 
counting procedures. ' ' 

"Oh, you should see Mr. Chloro- 
nngers about that - he's an expert!" 
"Thanks, he's this way isn't he? " 
gesturing down the hall to where he 
expected to find the remarkable stalk. 
"Yes, third booth on the left," she 
said with a knowing look. 

Jack scurried down the hallway and 
past the five booths on the left in 
search of the green tower. Suddenly 
he spotted it, but oddly it was in a 
corner of the floor nowhere near the 
location of his desk downstairs. The 
recently graduated business students 
weren't paying either him or the stalk 
any attention, as they busily attacked 
stacks of papers and numbers while 
they massaged each others' feet. 

As Jack approached the stalk, it 
leaned toward him, as if it recognized 
nun. Irresistably, Jack stroked its 


firm, green fibrous body. It quivered 
with delight. Furtively glancing a- 
round the room at the mesmerized 
accountants, Jack decided to take a 
chance. He slowly mounted the plant, 
and wrapped his legs around its thick 
trunk. It was easy to climb. The plant 
responded to his ascent with the 
timely growth of nodules and branch- 
es just where he needed some 

The top was nowhere in sight, 
curling around the corner and back 
into the air conditioning system in the 
ceiling. Jack disappeared through the 
hole in the top of the office. He felt 
that he would follow the stalk wher- 
ever it might take him. 

By this time Jack had discarded his 
shirt, tie, jacket, shoes, and socks, 
retaining only his slacks to protect his 
private parts from the numerous 
wires, valves, sockets, etc. that 
impeded his travels through the duct 
system. An unmistakeably erogenous 
sensation accompanied every contact 
between his bare skin and the strong 
green body of the stalk. 


I he attractive *t*>d-grain pattern of the motorized files makes a harmonious 
addition to the offices at Continental Telephone 

The stalk twisted and turned 
through the building's assorted ducts. 
Jack followed the lead of the plant, 
neither knowing nor caring where it 
was leading him. On the next floor the 
stalk came out into the employee 
lounge, right next to a floor-to-ceiling 
diffenbachia. Jack's head popped up 
between the plants, not far from the 
couch where a corpulent, middle-aged 
fellow in a drab business suit was 
nervously touching the nylon-clad 
knee of a young woman. She was 
heavily made-up with a rubbery 
complexion and a low-cut neckline. 

Carefully, Jack tried to climb up the 
backside of the stalk between the wall 
and the leafy protection of the diffen- 
bachia, hugging the trunk of the stalk 

tightly. He heard the nervous wheez- 
es of the man trying to impress the 
young woman with his accomplish- 
ments in the statistical manipulation 
of Kitchen Motor Marketing tech- 
niques. Jack couldn't tell whether the 
woman was impressed or even inter- 
ested, since she said nothing and he 
couldn't see her. Once he had cleared 
the ceiling on this the 23rd floor, he 
peeked back into the lounge and saw 
that the woman still sat passively 
under the man's anxious assertion of 
his masculinity. Just as he was about 
to go on to higher levels, the man's 
cigarette ashes dropped on the wo- 
man's other leg. Within a moment 
she exploded, her plastic cleavage 
collapsing as parts of her body 



scattered around the room, one piece 
sticking to Jack's cheek. He pulled it 
off and read Plastic Passion Playmate 
— 100% Genuine Petrochemical By- 
product — Made In USA. 

Jack continued climbing, his atten- 
tion once again absorbed by the 
friction between his body and the 
stalk. The plant seemed to be growing 
even faster, throbbing through the 
building's orifices, its ever- widening 
trunk and its new branches filled 
more and more of the passageway. 
Suddenly before Jack could get within 
10 feet of the next floor opening, he 
was pinned against the wall by the 
leaves and branches. Jack's sensual 
preoccupation quickly gave way to 

"Oh my god!... HELP!" 


The stalk began twisting, slowly 
turning upward. Jack found himself 
propelled by the branches under his 
feet. Two times around and Jack 
twisted and lunged toward the hole in 
the floor. 

"Made it! — EEOOOWWW! My 

Jack's foot was caught on a branch. 

With a momentous tug he pulled it 
free, not broken, but sprained. 

After nursing his foot for a mo- 
ment, Jack looked around. There 
were no windows in the conference 
room, the walls were covered by gray 
drapes. On a table in the middle of the 
room, his ankles and wrists bound 
underneath the table, was a naked 
elderly man. Requiring more urgent 
attention was another elderly man 
with a large pink belly, nude except 
for a polka dot tie with an ITT tie clasp 
and a gray suit jacket, sweating 
profusely, and moving towards Jack 
with a large carving knife. 

"Hey, whaddya doin'? Hey, put 
that knife down! C'mon man — I 
don't mean you any harm — let me 

Jack tried to scramble backwards, 
away from the approaching cold steel, 
but ran into the wall, bumping his 
head. He passed out. 

"Hey, uh, Jack wake up! Are you 
on drugs? Whattsamatter?? Wake 
Up!! You sick or something?" 

Mr. Strunk and Jim Gordon had 


7 haven't yet finalised the details but you're going 
to be something very big down here somewhere." 



been shaking Jack for five minutes 
before he finally started to come 
around. Groggily, Jack peered up at 
the beet-red Strunk, cigar smoke 
swirling around his head. 

"You hafen't efen been here vun 
month and already you fall asleep on 
job! And you are sixth typist ve hire in 
past fife veeks!" Strunk was fuming. 
"America is as bad as Russia! No vun 
vants to vork!" m 

"You might as well... uh... gather 
your um... things and... uh... um„ 
leave" sputtered Gordon. 

His grogginess shaken off by the 

hostility of the two brokers, Jack 
slowly put on his jacket and made his 
way to the elevators. His stomach 
filled with the familiar combination of 
dread and relief — relief for having 
the rest of the day off — dread 
because he would soon have to find 
another job. He was thinking about 
the things he would do that afternoon 
when he found himself stroking the 
ci lmemorative Bicentennial dish 
f ( a the American Bean Association 
ifl lis pocket. 

By Luscious Cabbage 

B.l-N**CX»o St 





Compared To 

Throughout the past decade, fem- 
inists have demanded "equal pay for 
equal work." Since this demand 
applies only to wage discrimination 
within the same job category, it does 
not address the majority of women 
workers who are in predominantly 
female occupations where wages are 
low across the board. A different 
approach to the problem of wage 
discrimination made headlines in 
June, 1981, when San Jose, California 
municipal workers struck for 10 days 
demanding "comparable pay for 
comparable worth." 

Under plans for comparable worth, 
consultants are hired to rate certain 
elements of a job numerically and to 
rank the job against other jobs. 
Occupations as diverse as ambulance 
driving and secretarial work can be 
compared on the basis of similarities 
in required skills, training, and 
decision-making. Pay scales are sup- 
posed to follow the ranking system, 
and when "male" and "female" jobs 
are compared, studies usually recom- 
mend significant increases in wo- 
men's wages. As San Jose city 
workers and others have discovered, 
the next step in comparable worth — 
getting employers to institute the 
recommended pay scales — usually 
requires a concerted effort on the part 
of workers. 

There are numerous practical prob- 
lems with job evaluations. Many of 
the job characteristics that are taken 
into account, such as stress and 
accountability, ar« quite subjective 
and allow for a wide variation in 
results depending on which consul- 
tant is hired and ihe way they carry 
out the study. Also, there are no clear 
boundaries to distinguish when jobs 
are too dissimilar to be compared. 

The stage was set in 1978 for San 
Jose's comparable worth demands 
when the union, local 101 of 
AFSCME, pressured the city to hire 
the consulting firm Hay Associates to 
evaluate and rank city jobs. Hay 
Associates are reputed to be friendly 
towards management and their find- 
ings frequently validate existing pay 
scales. In this case, the active 
participation of clerical workers in all 
stages of job evaluations led to 
recommended pay raises of up to 38 % 
for some women workers. Pay in- 
creases for 330 managerial positions 
were swiftly implemented. But when 
it came to raises for typists, librar- 
ians, etc. the city government pleaded 
poverty, claiming they couldn't pos- 
sibly afford the recommended salary 
levels. This decision from a largely 



female city council and the woman 
mayor, prompted the first "feminist 
strike" in recent memory. 

The union initially demanded a $3.2 
million budget allocation for parity 
increases over a four year period, in 
addition to a 10% cost of living raise. 
They finallly settled for a two-year 
contract which provided $1.4 million 
towards comparable worth, plus an 
8% cost of living raise. Average pay 
increases amounted to 17.6%, in- 
cluding the comparable worth 

The settlement was hailed as a 
victory by comparable worth propo- 
nents and it has fueled their nation- 
wide attempts to win wage parity. 
Striking San Jose workers got more or 
less what they wanted — a rare 
occurrence in these times of fiscal 
Crises and budget cutbacks. For- 
tunately for the municipal workers, 

the city of San Jose cannot pack up 
and take its business elsewhere like 
Blue Shield did when it was struck 
earlier this year. And fortunately for 
the "feminist" city government, San 
Jose is one of the fastest growing 
cities in the U.S. and is right in the 
heart of the prosperous Silicon Valley. 
Unlike other cities, San Jose can draw 
revenues from the electronics indus- 
try to pay for wage increases. 

Other attempts to establish the 
comparable worth principle have fo- 
cussed on the legal system. A bout of 
excruciatingly time consuming law- 
suits have been launched to create a 
legal mandate for comparable worth. 
But judges are reluctant to hand down 
sweeping decisions since, in the 
words of a U.S. District Court judge in 
Denver who recently dismissed a 
comparability lawsuit, "I'm not going 
to restructure the entire economy of 



the U.S." 

Given the large numbers of women 
and minorities in low paying jobs, 
wage parity would require billions of 
dollars in wage adjustments. This 
means a massive transfer of wealth 
from business to workers — some- 
thing which will never be accom- 
plished in the courts. 


As an effort to formulate a "realis- 
tic" proposal to employers, the union 
in San Jose helped create an alterna- 
tive hierarchy of job categories. For 
example, a clerk typist is now rated as 
a grade 1, or lowest rank, while a 
recreation specialist is rated as a 
grade 7. Implicit in this new and 
supposedly "legitimate" ranking is 
the assumption that low wages are 
justified for those occupations which 
require less training, thinking and 
responsibility. While it is no doubt 
just as difficult and tedious for a clerk 

typist to show up each morning at the 
job and follow orders all day long, 
according to comparable worth it is 
legitimate to pay her less than the 
recreation specialist. 

In effect, the campaign for com- 
parable worth becomes a trade-off: 
employers will stop discriminating 
sexually through the informal but 
effective method of underpaying jobs 
performed mostly by women. As their 
part of the "bargain," workers must 
accept a highly stratified labor market 
based on the prerogatives of business 
and the market. In this new system of 
discrimination workers are still econ- 
omically rewarded for the merits, 
qualifications and skills that are useful 
to employers. The demand that the 
worth of women's wage labor be 
recognized puts forth a narrow con- 
ception of what is valuable, and 
obscures the basic worthlessness of so 
much of our time spent on the job. It 


A. Refrigerator full 
of 1500 Freeze Dried 

B. Sony Trinitron, 
tuned to "General 

C. Clothes wringer 
with starched shorts 
passing through 

D. Periscope con- 
nected to top of 
building — for wea- 
ther forecasting pur- 

E.45rpm record 

F. Periscope to Ex- 
ecutive restroom 
G. Empty box 

I. Garbage Compac- 

J. Reclining refrig- 

K. Box of square to- 
matoes compliments 
of "the company" 



"One day, my boy, all this will be yours . . . how about tomorrow?" 

is not just that so many workers don't 
get paid enough, but that the impera- 
tive of making money in boring, 
tedious jobs robs us of the time and 
energy to do things which are truly 
valuable to ourselves and others. 

Nevertheless, demands for com- 
parable worth may prove to be a 
useful short-term strategy to increase 
wages for women and minority work- 
ers who are victims of wage dis- 
crimination. Since much of the op- 
pression suffered by women and 
minorities hinges on economic dis- 
crimination, winning pay increases 
could be a significant advance. Un- 
fortunately, the comparable worth 
strategy relies heavily on the use of 
"experts" — lawyers, union negoti- 
ators, statisticians and consultants — 
which makes real income gains un- 
likely. When the fight for wage gains 
is not in the hands of the people most 
directly affected, the likely result is 
that cosmetic changes will take the 
place of cold, hard cash. 

— By Helen Highwater 



The Office as Metaphor 
for Totalitarianism 

Vaclav Havel's "The Memorandum" — A Review 

The Czech playwright Vaclav Havel 
is known in the West less for his 
writing than for his status as the most 
prominent Czech political prisoner. 
Since 1968, when the Husak govern- 
ment came to power on the backs of 
invading Soviet tanks, Havel has 
continually spoken out against re- 
pression, conformity, and bureau- 
cratic pseudo-rationality. The loss of 
his job as dramaturg of Prague's 
Balustrade Theater and the banning 
of public performances of his plays 
did not prevent him from continuing 
to write. 

In 1977, he received a 14-month 
suspended sentence for belonging to 
the Charter 77 group, whose declared 
purpose was merely to pressure the 
Czech government to adhere to its 
own laws. Refusing to be intimidated, 
Havel eventually became the de facto 
spokesman not only for intellectual 
dissidents but for the Czech opposi- 
tion movement as a whole; the 
notorious anti-authoritarian rock 
group The Plastic People of the 
Universe recorded their first under- 
ground album at his country home. 
Needless to say, the Husak regime 
could not tolerate such "subversive" 
activity for long. As a result of his 
participation in the dissident group 
VONS (whose acronym translates as 
the Committee for the Defense of the 
Unjustly Persecuted) , Havel was sen- 
tenced in 1979 to four and half years 
in prison, where he remains to this 

Since the capitalist West is always 
quick to point to individuals like Havel 
as proof of the alleged superiority of 
the free world's democratic way of 
life, one would expect that Havel's 
work would be easily obtainable, even 
performed, in the United States. In 

fact, only one of his plays is currently 
available in this country, an early work 
from 1965 called The Memorandum , 
which despite winning an Obie Award 
in 1968 for Best Foreign Play was not 
published until last year. As if this 
were not enough to prevent the play 
from gaining the public it deserves, 
the American publisher, Grove Press, 
has slapped a prohibitive $5.95 price 
tag on the 90-page text, thereby 
virtually ensuring its absence from 
bookstores and libraries. 

It is entirely possible that if Havel 
had written a play specifically about 
life under a totalitarian Communist 
regime, he would have enjoyed at 
least a fraction of the attention and 
acclaim granted his counterparts in 
the Soviet Union. But upon reading 
The Memorandum (incidentally one 
of the few Havel plays to be 
performed in his native country), one 
is struck by how applicable its subject 
matter is to bureaucracies all over the 
world. By successfully universalizing 
his parable of power politics, Havel 
has placed himself in the line of his 
three great compatriots and fellow 
dissecters of bureaucratic mores: 
Karel Capek, Jaroslav Hasek, and 
Franz Kafka. Beneath the comic, 
innocuously "absurdist" style of The 
Memorandum, a penetratingly satir- 
ical mind is at work, pessimistic with- 
out being gloomy, accurate without 
being preachy. 

Havel has chosen an office as the 
backdrop for his play. This is doubly 
significant, not only because bureau- 
cracy's home is in the office, but 
because in its organization, its ra- 
tionale, and the behavior required of 
its functionaries, the office is essen- 
tially totalitarian. Havel depicts a 
nameless, purposeless organization 







whose human cogs are fanatically 
dedicated to an "efficiency" that 
somehow eludes them at every turn. 
A new language is introduced into the 
office expressly to promote such 
efficiency. Although nobody knows or 
is willing to admit the source of the 


management directive ordering the 
implementation of "Ptydepe" in all 
inter-office communications, the of- 
fice staff is more than willing to learn 
it. Based on a seemingly logical 
principle — since ordinary human 
speech, susceptible as it is to contrary 
interpretations, tends to obscure the 
infinite variety and precision of 
bureaucratic protocol, a language 
capable of emphasizing semantic 
differences must be devised — 
Ptydepe turns out to be useless and 
unlearnable. The office is plunged 
into turmoil: inefficiency is rampant, 
power plays ensue, and, at the play's 
ending, everything is back to normal, 
or so it seems. Since the problem of 
linguistic inefficiency remains, yet 
another meta-language is pressed 
into service, this time based on 
opposite premises from Ptydepe. The 
vicious circle begins anew. 

If the eminently satirizable subject 
of bureaucratese were all that Havel 
is concerned with, The Memorandum 
would be a pleasant enough diver- 
sion, easily assimilated and just as 
easily forgotten. But the comic plight 
of the hapless bureaucrats caught in 

their eternal double-binds is merely 
an adjunct to the fundamental prob- 
lem Havel poses: within a system of 
total bureaucratic control, what 
choices can people make? and what 
choices do they make? 

The two principal characters — 
Managing Director Gross and his 
Deputy Director Ballas — engage in 
an incessant war of nerves throughout 
the play, with the Deputy somehow 
managing to win out every time. The 
authority of Gross, the ostensible 
head of the organization, is constantly 
ignored and flouted by Ballas, an 
unctuously manipulative, scheming, 
authoritarian type, well-schooled in 
the art of infighting. Within the 
course of the play, the unfortunate 
Gross is demoted, forced to humiliate 
himself in front of his staff by 
confessing minor infractions of pro- 
tocol, temporarily appointed to spy on 
the employees, and finally allowed to 
win back his (by-now-meaningless) 

By depicting this manager's trials 
and tribulations, Havel ironically 
inverts the age-old theme of the plight 
of the "little man" trapped in a 
hostile bureaucracy. Initially an ex- 
emplary functionary who prides him- 
self on his "humanist" philosophy of 
work — "every single member of the 
staff is human and must become more 
and more human" — Gross is 
reduced to plaintively wondering 
"Why can't I be a little boy again? I'd 
do everything differently from the 
beginning. ' ' (To which Ballas brutally 
and accurately responds "You might 
begin differently, but you'd end up 
exactly the same — so relax!") When 
a young secretary encourages him to 
take a stand against his adversaries, 
he can only spout philosophical 
cliches to excuse his inaction. In order 
to help him, the secretary breaks a 
bureaucratic rule. As a result of her 
unselfish gesture, Gross regains his 
position, but she is fired when the 
company spy informs on her. When 
she turns to Gross for help, he 




Fyra enaktare i samarbete mellan Dramaten och Fria Proteatern 
av Pavel Kohout och Vaclav Havel 




en 08 63 60 63 


> 9-128. 13 30-15Hn6 

Fria Proteatern pa Scala 

Wallingatan 34. Biljettbestallning 14 35 75 

Swedish poster announcing 

the performance of a Vaclav 

Havel play in Stockholm. 

pompously proclaims in pseudo- 
existential language that he can do 
nothing for her "becase I am in fact 
totally alienated from myself" and 
because "Man's humanity," whose 
interests he claims to represent, is 
best served by complying unprotest- 
ingly with the organizational status 
quo. At the end of the play, he joins 
his erstwhile tormentors for lunch, 
exhorting the young woman not to lose 
faith in people. 

Given the socio-political conditions 
prevailing in Czechoslovakia during 
the mid-Sixties, the implications of 
Havel's play for his audience are 
clear. With remarkable prescience, he 
delineates the essentially false op- 
position between the old-line Stalin- 
ists (represented by Ballas) who had 
been temporarily displaced at the 
upper levels of the government hier- 
archy by the more reform-minded 
"liberal" bureaucrats (represented 



by Gross). He shows that the much- 
vaunted "socialism with a human 
face" which at that time was just 
beginning to make itself felt in Czech 
society would remain empty rhetoric 
as long as it coexisted with the 
Stalinist governmental machine. Sad- 
ly, the events of three years later were 
to prove Havel correct. But if there is 
a positive side to his play, it surely 
consists in the recognition that al- 
though totalitarian systems cannot 
tolerate even the slightest gesture of 
discontent, individuals can still make 
choices. It is hinted broadly that the 
disruption caused by the introduction 
of Ptydepe was deliberately planned 
by a mute, seemingly loyal func- 
tionary as a means of sabotaging the 

But Havel's characters, far from 
being merely types on which to hang a 
political argument, are recognizable 
to anyone who has worked in an 
office. There is the briskly officious 
chairman, who when asked what she 
is chairman of replies "Don't know... 
just yet. As a matter of fact we're 
having a meeting about that very 
thing this afternoon," and who con- 
stantly sends her secretary off on 
personal errands, only to jump at the 
first order her male supervisor barks 
at her. There are the two high-level 
professionals who do nothing all day 
but sit around, eat, smoke, and make 
characteristically gross comments 
about the attractive young depart- 
ment secretary. There is the low-level 
clerk who always comes out with the 
"right" answer in his training 
courses. There is the pedantic, ver- 
bose class instructor who retains his 
missionary zeal no matter what lan- 
guage he teaches. And finally, there 
is the hired informer and spy (euphe- 
mistically called the "Staff Watch- 
er"), who maintains his dignity by 
filching expensive cigars from his 

Office workers will also recognize 
~ and empathize with - the deeper 

points that Havel is making. Ptydepe 
may seem ridiculously cumbersome, 
but no more so than the average 
computer language and bureaucra- 
tized memo-ese. The obsession with 
efficiency that somehow always man- 
ages to create huge messes, the con- 
stant contradictory changes in pro- 
cedure, the superficial "equality" 
that masks the most oppressive 
hierarchy, the ruthless subordination 
of individuals to the "good of the 
organization" and management's 
manipulation of this slogan for its own 
venal ends, the spying and back- 
biting, and the summary dismissal or 
ostracism of anybody who breaks 
even the most insignificant rule — all 
of these qualities, which can only be 
described as totalitarian in scope and 
effect, prevail in workplaces every- 
where, including the most self- 
avowedly democratic societies. 

To be sure, we who live in 
"pluralist" Western systems are 
allowed the civil liberties that people 
like Vaclav Havel cannot enjoy. But 
these liberties cease the moment we 
enter the workplace. One may well 
imagine the fate of an office worker in 
America who tried to emulate Vaclav 
Havel and expose the totalitarian 
mechanisms of wage-labor while on 
the job. At best, she would be forced 
to live under the cloud of an "attitude 
problem" and undergo the humili- 
ation of a reprimand by her boss or 
bosses. And if she did not recant her 
action, she would be fired and most 
likely black-listed as a "dangerous 
malcontent" from future employment 
opportunities. No doubt about it, she 
would be free — to starve or suffer 
through an even worse job than 
before — and of course it woud be out 
of the question to jail her for her 
beliefs. But order must be preserved, 
there is no excuse for unprofessional 
conduct in the line of duty, and job 
descriptions being what they are... In 
short, we are all too aware of what will 
happen if we break a rule, so we are